The paper discusses the potential of recently developed efficiency analysis techniques in the field of scientific research. Several approaches to the study of scientific productivity are compared and their limitations are discussed. As an illustrative example, we analyse data on scientific productivity at (almost) all institutes of the French INSERM and at biomedical research institutes of the Italian CNR for the year 1997. Available data on human capital input and geographical agglomeration allow the estimation and comparison of efficiency measures for the two institutions. The methods applied are nonparametric envelopment techniques (i.e. Data Envelopment Analysis, Free Disposal Hull) and robust nonparametric techniques (based on the concept of order-m frontier) recently introduced in efficiency analysis by Cazals, Florens and Simar (2002). The robust nonparametric approach is applied in this work for the first time for evaluating scientific productivity. It is shown as a useful tool to compute scientific productivity indicators and make institutional comparative analysis. Taking into account a large number of methodological problems, a meaningful and rigorous indirec
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