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Do innovation measures actually measure innovation? Obliteration, symbolic adoption, and other finicky challenges in tracking innovation diffusion

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  • Nelson, Andrew
  • Earle, Andrew
  • Howard-Grenville, Jennifer
  • Haack, Julie
  • Young, Doug

Abstract

Although innovation diffusion is a central topic in policy and strategy, its measurement remains difficult – particularly in cases where the innovation is a complex and possibly ambiguous practice. In this paper, we develop four theoretical mechanisms that may bias diffusion markers by leading to the understatement and/or overstatement of diffusion at different points in time. Employing the case of “green chemistry,” we then compare three different diffusion markers – keywords, database index terms, and domain expert assessments – and we demonstrate how they lead to differing conclusions about the magnitude and timing of diffusion, organizational demography, publication outlets, and collaboration. We also provide suggestive evidence of extensive “greenwashing” by particular organization types and in particular countries. Building on these findings, we point to potential challenges with existing diffusion studies, and we make a case for the incorporation of practitioners in construct measurement and for the integration of comparative metrics in diffusion studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Nelson, Andrew & Earle, Andrew & Howard-Grenville, Jennifer & Haack, Julie & Young, Doug, 2014. "Do innovation measures actually measure innovation? Obliteration, symbolic adoption, and other finicky challenges in tracking innovation diffusion," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(6), pages 927-940.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:43:y:2014:i:6:p:927-940
    DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2014.01.010
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Epicoco, Marianna, 2016. "Patterns of innovation and organizational demography in emerging sustainable fields: An analysis of the chemical sector," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 427-441.
    2. Jamasb, Tooraj & Pollitt, Michael G., 2015. "Why and how to subsidise energy R+D: Lessons from the collapse and recovery of electricity innovation in the UK," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 197-205.
    3. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:5:p:862-:d:99174 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Jarunee Wonglimpiyarat, 2016. "Technological Change of the Innovation Payment System," International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management (IJITM), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 13(04), pages 1-20, August.
    5. Krzysztof Klincewicz, 2016. "The emergent dynamics of a technological research topic: the case of graphene," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 106(1), pages 319-345, January.
    6. repec:spr:rvmgts:v:12:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11846-016-0217-9 is not listed on IDEAS

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