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Of Mice and Academics: Examining the Effect of Openness on Innovation

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  • Stern, Scott
  • Kolev, Julian
  • Dewatripont, Mathias
  • Aghion, Philippe
  • Murray, Fiona
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    Abstract

    Scientific freedom and openness are hallmarks of academia: relative to their counterparts in industry, academics maintain discretion over their research agenda and allow others to build on their discoveries. This paper examines the relationship between openness and freedom, building on recent models emphasizing that, from an economic perspective, freedom is the granting of control rights to researchers. Within this framework, openness of upstream research does not simply encourage higher levels of downstream exploitation. It also raises the incentives for additional upstream research by encouraging the establishment of entirely new research directions. In other words, within academia, restrictions on scientific openness (such as those created by formal intellectual property (IP)) may limit the diversity and experimentation of basic research itself. We test this hypothesis by examining a "natural experiment" in openness within the academic community: NIH agreements during the late 1990s that circumscribed IP restrictions for academics regarding certain genetically engineered mice. Using a sample of engineered mice that are linked to specific scientific papers (some affected by the NIH agreements and some not), we implement a differences-in-differences estimator to evaluate how the level and type of follow-on research using these mice changes after the NIH-induced increase in openness. We find a significant increase in the level of follow-on research. Moreover, this increase is driven by a substantial increase in the rate of exploration of more diverse research paths. Overall, our findings highlight a neglected cost of IP: reductions in the diversity of experimentation that follows from a single idea.

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    File URL: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/4554220/Aghion_OfMiceAcademics.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 4554220.

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    Date of creation: 2009
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    Publication status: Published in NBER Working Paper Series
    Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:4554220

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    References

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    1. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Manuel Trajtenberg, 1992. "General Purpose Technologies "Engines of Growth?"," NBER Working Papers 4148, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:
    1. Joshua S. Gans & Fiona Murray, 2014. "Credit History: The Changing Nature of Scientific Credit," NBER Chapters, in: The Changing Frontier: Rethinking Science and Innovation Policy National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Alexy, Oliver & Reitzig, Markus, 2013. "Private–collective innovation, competition, and firms’ counterintuitive appropriation strategies," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 895-913.
    3. Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Bhaven N. Sampat, 2011. "The Diffusion of Scientific Knowledge Across Time and Space: Evidence from Professional Transitions for the Superstars of Medicine," NBER Working Papers 16683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Simeth, Markus & Raffo, Julio D., 2013. "What makes companies pursue an Open Science strategy?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(9), pages 1531-1543.
    5. Joshua S. Gans & Fiona E. Murray & Scott Stern, 2013. "Contracting Over the Disclosure of Scientific Knowledge: Intellectual Property and Academic Publication," NBER Working Papers 19560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Anders Broström, 2012. "Firms’ rationales for interaction with research universities and the principles for public co-funding," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 313-329, June.
    7. repec:wip:wpaper:6 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Jing-Yuan, Chiou, 2012. "In the shadow of giants," MPRA Paper 37033, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Larsen, Maria Theresa, 2011. "The implications of academic enterprise for public science: An overview of the empirical evidence," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 6-19, February.

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