IRIS and Steppingblocks Create Innovative Collaboration to Promote Scientific Research and Measure the Impact of $100 Billion in Award Spending

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The project utilizes cutting-edge data analytics, providing outcomes data on employees who leave universities after work on sponsored research.

This unique dataset can advance our understanding of the career paths and economic contributions of research-funded employees.

About half of university employees who are funded by sponsored research grants find jobs in the same state as their university when they leave their campuses, according to new data produced through a collaboration between the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science (IRIS) and Steppingblocks, an Atlanta-based analytics provider.

The new findings are a result of combined data from Steppingblocks and IRIS members, many of the largest research universities in the country, which account for more than 40% of all university R&D spending in the United States. Steppingblocks utitilizes advanced machine learning to uncover insights through billions of disparate education and workforce data points. The strategic collaboration will allow for deeper and more actionable analyses for public research universities, governmental bodies, and top academic stakeholders.

The new data includes detailed information on the earnings and industries of university research-trained employees, in addition to geographic insights. According to the report:

  • The most lucrative industries were: Financial Services, with a median income of $110,209 for post-docs; Legal Services, with a median income of $112,250 for staff and $98,395 for faculty; and Telecommunications, with a median income of $99,223 for graduate students.
  • The top three states of employment for research-trained university employees are California, New York, and Illinois.
  • The Education, Healthcare, Information Technology, and Life Sciences industries were the top employers of research trained university employees.

“This unique dataset can advance our understanding of the career paths and economic contributions of research-funded employees, and the extended public good provided by government-sponsored research projects,” said Jason Owen-Smith, IRIS Executive Director, and Professor of Sociology and Executive Director of Data Analytics at the University of Michigan.

“Both organizations share a common mission related to data-driven decision making, based upon measurable outcome data. We are excited to partner with an academic body of IRIS’ caliber and help forward their mission, given its immense impact on society,” said Rob Gannaway, Steppingblocks’ Co-Founder.

New data that result from the project will be publicly available to any researcher in the United States as a supplement to IRIS’ existing dataset. Detailed reports on research-funded employee outcomes and contributions to the economy are available to IRIS member institutions who contribute their data to IRIS.

About IRIS: IRIS is a member consortium of universities anchored by an IRB-approved data repository hosted at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. IRIS collects administrative data from its members to produce a de-identified dataset for research and campus-specific reporting for members that will improve our ability to understand, explain, and improve the public value of research. IRIS is housed at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

About Steppingblocks: Steppingblocks is a data analytics provider focused on workforce and education outcome insights on over 130 million individuals in the United States. The company’s proprietary technology utilizes big data methodologies and advanced machine learning to produce actionable analytics and insights for education institutions, companies, and individuals. Steppingblocks is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

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