Robin Hanson seems to think so:
Compared to academics, non-academics have a less idealistic view of academia. For example, compared to academic economists, non-academic economists see less social value and progress in economics research, more researcher gender influence on that research, and more journal favoritism toward those at top schools or with inside connections.
In his post, Hanson quotes this paper in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology:
62 percent were academic economists, of which 31 percent had completed their doctoral degree ... Among academic economists, nearly half were full professors; ... Only those in departments offering graduate economics degrees generally believe that [economic] research entails spillover benefits [to society]. Further, academic economists actively publishing generally agree that economic research is improving in explaining economic behavior and events; academic economists inactive as publishers generally do not.
Read more after the link.
This brings up some important questions. Do academic economists overvalue economic research? If so, how do you measure the true value of what they do? Is a lot of relatively insignificant research the price that has to be paid for the rare but powerful breakthrough? Is this true in all areas of research? How does the cost/value ratio compare of economics compared to other fields?
Here's a question to all my econ friends. When was the last major breakthrough in economics and what was it?