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Reconceptualizing Stars: Scientist Helpfulness and Peer Performance

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  • Alexander Oettl

    () (College of Management, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30308)

Abstract

It is surprising that the prevailing performance taxonomy for scientists (star versus nonstar) focuses only on individual output and ignores social behavior, because innovation is often characterized as a communal process. To develop a deeper understanding of the mechanisms by which scientists influence the productivity of others, I expand the traditional taxonomy of scientists that focuses solely on productivity and add a second, social dimension: helpfulness to others. Using a combination of academic paper publications and citations to capture scientist productivity and the receipt of academic paper acknowledgments to measure helpfulness, I examine the change in publishing output of the coauthors of 149 scientists that die. Coauthors of highly helpful scientists that die experience a decrease in output quality but not output quantity . Meanwhile, the deaths of high productivity scientists that are not highly helpful do not influence their coauthors' output. In addition, scientists who are helpful with conceptual feedback (critique and advice) have a larger impact on the performance of their coauthors than scientists who provide help with material access, scientific tools, or technical work. Within the context of evaluating scientific productivity, it may be time to update our conceptualization of a "star." This paper was accepted by Lee Fleming, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander Oettl, 2012. "Reconceptualizing Stars: Scientist Helpfulness and Peer Performance," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(6), pages 1122-1140, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:58:y:2012:i:6:p:1122-1140
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1110.1470
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Conti, Annamaria & Liu, Christopher C., 2015. "Bringing the lab back in: Personnel composition and scientific output at the MIT Department of Biology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(9), pages 1633-1644.
    2. Fernanda L. L. de Leon & Ben McQuillin, 2014. "The role of conferences on the pathway to academic impact: Evidence from a natural experiment," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 14-08, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
    3. João R. FARIA & Franklin G. MIXON, Jr. & Kamal P. UPADHYAYA, 2017. "Human capital and collegiality in academic beehives: Theory and analysis of European Economics faculties," Theoretical and Applied Economics, Asociatia Generala a Economistilor din Romania - AGER, vol. 0(1(610), S), pages 147-162, Spring.
    4. Natalia Zinovyeva & Manuel Bagues, 2015. "The Role of Connections in Academic Promotions," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 264-292, April.
    5. Hohberger, Jan, 2016. "Does it pay to stand on the shoulders of giants? An analysis of the inventions of star inventors in the biotechnology sector," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 682-698.
    6. Carlo MENON, 2014. "La propagation des grandes idées? L\'impact de l\'activité de brevet des firmes leader sur les inventeurs locaux," Cahiers du GREThA 2014-11, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée.
    7. Han, Xue & Niosi, Jorge, 2016. "Star scientists in PV technology and the limits of academic entrepreneurship," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(5), pages 1707-1711.
    8. Haeussler, Carolin & Sauermann, Henry, 2013. "Credit where credit is due? The impact of project contributions and social factors on authorship and inventorship," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 688-703.
    9. João R. Faria & Franklin G. Mixon & Kamal P. Upadhyaya, 2016. "Human capital, collegiality, and stardom in economics: empirical analysis," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 106(3), pages 917-943, March.
    10. Ajay K. Agrawal & John McHale & Alex Oettl, 2014. "Why Stars Matter," NBER Working Papers 20012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Sonali Shah & Emily Pahnke, 2014. "Parting the ivory curtain: understanding how universities support a diverse set of startups," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 39(5), pages 780-792, October.
    12. repec:spr:scient:v:112:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-017-2442-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Ajay Agrawal & John McHale & Alexander Oettl, 2014. "Collaboration, Stars, and the Changing Organization of Science: Evidence from Evolutionary Biology," NBER Chapters,in: The Changing Frontier: Rethinking Science and Innovation Policy, pages 75-102 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Georg, Co-Pierre & Opolot, Daniel C. & Rose, Michael E., 2017. "Informal intellectual collaboration with central colleagues," Kiel Working Papers 2084, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    15. Michael Housman & Dylan Minor, 2015. "Toxic Workers," Harvard Business School Working Papers 16-057, Harvard Business School, revised Nov 2015.
    16. Ajay Agrawal & Avi Goldfarb & Florenta Teodoridis, 2013. "Does Knowledge Accumulation Increase the Returns to Collaboration?," NBER Working Papers 19694, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Rebecca R. Kehoe & Daniel Tzabbar, 2015. "Lighting the way or stealing the shine? An examination of the duality in star scientists' effects on firm innovative performance," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(5), pages 709-727, May.
    18. Agrawal, Ajay & McHale, John & Oettl, Alexander, 2017. "How stars matter: Recruiting and peer effects in evolutionary biology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(4), pages 853-867.
    19. Carolin Haeussler & Henry Sauermann, 2016. "The Division of Labor in Teams: A Conceptual Framework and Application to Collaborations in Science," NBER Working Papers 22241, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. repec:agr:journl:v:xxiv:y:2017:i:1(610):p:147-162 is not listed on IDEAS

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