In the USA, stem cell research policy has been addressed at both federal and state levels. This paper focuses on the heterogeneous state policy environment and compares data from surveys of stem cell scientists and other biomedical researchers to evaluate the impact of supportive state policies on stem cell scientists’ geographic preferences. At least early in the development of the field, permissive state policies were a strong predictor of scientists’ geographic preferences. Combined with an analysis of scientists’ policy awareness and explanations of their preferences, these findings suggest that supportive state science policies have influenced scientists’ geographic preferences and, at least in the case of stem cell research where federal funding restrictions are prevalent, may help states to successfully recruit scientists.

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