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Learning by Seconding: Evidence from National Science Foundation Rotators

Author

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  • Christos Kolympiris

    (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom)

  • Sebastian Hoenen

    (Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, 3000 DR Rotterdam, Netherlands)

  • Peter G. Klein

    (Hankamer School of Business, Baylor University, Waco, Texas 76798)

Abstract

We study knowledge flows between organizations through secondments, short-term employee assignments at an organization different from the home institution. Secondments allow the sending organization to capture knowledge and network resources from the receiving organization without an organization-level contract, alliance, or colocation, a process we term learning by seconding . We focus on the National Science Foundation (NSF) rotation program, under which the NSF employs academics, called rotators, on loan from their university, to lead peer reviews. We ask how rotators affect the behavior of their academic colleagues after returning from a secondment. Using difference in differences estimations, we show that rotators’ colleagues raise considerably more research funds than similar scientists who do not have a rotator colleague. Additional quantitative and qualitative evidence implies that the treatment effect occurs via knowledge transfer, as rotators help generate ideas, frame proposals, and explain processes, rather than rent-seeking on the part of the rotator. Overall, the results suggest that strong ties and shared social identity play an important role in organizational knowledge acquisition.

Suggested Citation

  • Christos Kolympiris & Sebastian Hoenen & Peter G. Klein, 2019. "Learning by Seconding: Evidence from National Science Foundation Rotators," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(3), pages 528-551, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:30:y:2019:i:3:p:528-551
    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.2018.1245
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