Richard R. Nelson is an economist by formal training. Over his career, he has taught at Oberlin College, Carnegie Mellon University, Yale University, and Columbia University. He now heads the program on Science, Technology, and Global Development, at the Columbia Earth Institute, and is George Blumenthal Professor of International and Public Affairs, Business, and Law, Emeritus, at Columbia University. He has served as research economist and analyst at the Rand Corporation, and at the President’s Council of Economic Advisors.

His central interests have been in long-run economic change. Much of his research has been directed toward understanding technological change, how economic institutions and public policies influence the evolution of technology, and how technological change in turn induces institutional and economic change more broadly. His most cited works have included his book with Sidney Winter, An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change, and his National Innovation Systems.