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Superstar Extinction

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  • Pierre Azoulay
  • Joshua S. Graff Zivin
  • Jialan Wang

Abstract

We estimate the magnitude of spillovers generated by 112 academic "superstars" who died prematurely and unexpectedly, thus providing an exogenous source of variation in the structure of their collaborators' coauthorship networks. Following the death of a superstar, we find that collaborators experience, on average, a lasting 5% to 8% decline in their quality-adjusted publication rates. By exploring interactions of the treatment effect with a variety of star, coauthor, and star/coauthor dyad characteristics, we seek to adjudicate between plausible mechanisms that might explain this finding. Taken together, our results suggest that spillovers are circumscribed in idea space, but less so in physical or social space. In particular, superstar extinction reveals the boundaries of the scientific field to which the star contributes—the "invisible college."

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Jialan Wang, 2010. "Superstar Extinction," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(2), pages 549-589.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:125:y:2010:i:2:p:549-589.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1162/qjec.2010.125.2.549
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Benner, Mary & Waldfogel, Joel, 2008. "Close to you? Bias and precision in patent-based measures of technological proximity," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(9), pages 1556-1567, October.
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    3. Azoulay, Pierre & Stellman, Andrew & Zivin, Joshua Graff, 2006. "PublicationHarvester: An open-source software tool for science policy research," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(7), pages 970-974, September.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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