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Does Knowledge Accumulation Increase the Returns to Collaboration?

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  • Ajay Agrawal
  • Avi Goldfarb
  • Florenta Teodoridis

Abstract

We conduct the first empirical test of the knowledge burden hypothesis, one of several theories advanced to explain increasing team sizes in science. For identification, we exploit the collapse of the USSR as an exogenous shock to the knowledge frontier causing a sudden release of previously hidden research. We report evidence that team size increased disproportionately in Soviet-rich relative to -poor subfields of theoretical mathematics after 1990. Furthermore, consistent with the hypothesized mechanism, scholars in Soviet-rich subfields disproportionately increased citations to Soviet prior art and became increasingly specialized.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19694.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19694

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  1. Kirk B. Doran & George J. Borjas, 2013. "Which Peers Matter? The Relative Impacts of Collaborators, Colleagues, and Competitors," Working Papers 021, University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2013.
  2. Alexander Oettl, 2012. "Reconceptualizing Stars: Scientist Helpfulness and Peer Performance," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(6), pages 1122-1140, June.
  3. Kirk B. Doran & George J. Borjas, 2012. "Cognitive Mobility - Labor Market Responses to Supply Shocks in the Space of Ideas," Working Papers 019, University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics, revised Nov 2012.
  4. Fabian Waldinger, 2012. "Peer Effects in Science: Evidence from the Dismissal of Scientists in Nazi Germany," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(2), pages 838-861.
  5. Ajay Agrawal & Avi Goldfarb, 2008. "Restructuring Research: Communication Costs and the Democratization of University Innovation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1578-90, September.
  6. Benjamin F. Jones, 2009. "The Burden of Knowledge and the "Death of the Renaissance Man": Is Innovation Getting Harder?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 283-317.
  7. Kirk Doran & Kirk Doran, 2012. "The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians," Working Papers 002, University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2012.
  8. E. Han Kim & Adair Morse & Luigi Zingales, 2006. "Are Elite Universities Losing Their Competitive Edge?," NBER Working Papers 12245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. James D. Adams, 2004. "Scientific Teams and Institution Collaborations: Evidence from U.S. Universities, 1981-1999," NBER Working Papers 10640, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Daron Acemoglu & Tarek A. Hassan & James A. Robinson, 2011. "Social Structure and Development: A Legacy of the Holocaust in Russia," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 895-946.
  11. Zucker, Lynne G & Darby, Michael R & Brewer, Marilynn B, 1998. "Intellectual Human Capital and the Birth of U.S. Biotechnology Enterprises," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 290-306, March.
  12. Benjamin F. Jones, 2008. "The Knowledge Trap: Human Capital and Development Reconsidered," NBER Working Papers 14138, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Eric T. Stuen & Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak & Keith E. Maskus, 2012. "Skilled Immigration and Innovation: Evidence from Enrolment Fluctuations in US Doctoral Programmes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(565), pages 1143-1176, December.
  14. Fabian Waldinger, 2010. "Quality Matters: The Expulsion of Professors and the Consequences for PhD Student Outcomes in Nazi Germany," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 787-831, 08.
  15. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2005. "Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 835-864, August.
  16. Jasjit Singh & Lee Fleming, 2010. "Lone Inventors as Sources of Breakthroughs: Myth or Reality?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(1), pages 41-56, January.
  17. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-58, December.
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