James D. Adams, Professor of Economics

I conduct empirical research on technological change and economic growth

Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be a researcher.  At age seven I attended a class where we learned about Archimedes’ Principle, where an object is kept afloat by the weight of the fluid displaced.  That cinched it. There were other formative experiences.  With a good friend I studied basic philosophy, an interest that has stayed with me ever since.  Then came a shock of enduring value. Following high school, I left the East Coast for the desert Southwest.   The colossal, arid landscape; the vast income differences between modern and traditional American Indian communities; my first experiences with university life; the idea of solving important social problems using economics—all this made for a heady blend of experiences and ideas.  Four years later, I began graduate study in economics at the University of Chicago, with its great faculty and its commitment to open debate.  This yielded a lifetime of ideas on which to build a career.  While I have engaged in many other pursuits since, all of them spring from these early experiences.

I am currently a Professor of Economics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY.  I am retired from teaching and I am engaged full-time in research.  In addition, I am a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Prior to joining Rensselaer, I was Professor of Economics at the University of Florida.  I have held visiting appointments at the University of Chicago, the University of Maryland, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of the Census, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  I served as a reader for Science and Engineering Indicators, a biennial volume of the National Science Foundation, a participant on the Telecommunications R&D Board of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC; and as an adviser to the Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology on issues of data quality and policy evaluation.

I have published numerous articles on the economics of technical change, with emphasis on the causes and consequences of industrial and academic research and development, as well as articles in the fields of labor and public economics.  My current research focuses on identification of alternative channels of knowledge flows in the economy, the structure and meaning of scientific teams and collaborations, the growth and restructuring of universities, and social and economic networks of scientists and engineers.