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Scientific Teams and Institution Collaborations: Evidence from U.S. Universities, 1981-1999

  • James D. Adams

This paper explores recent trends in the size of scientific teams and in institutional collaborations. The data derive from 2.4 million scientific papers written in 110 leading U.S. research universities over the period 1981-1999. We measure team size by the number of authors on a scientific paper. Using this measure we find that team size increases by 50 percent over the 19-year period. We supplement team size with measures of domestic and foreign institutional collaborations, which capture the geographic dispersion of team workers. The time series evidence suggests that the trend towards larger and more dispersed teams accelerates at the start of the 1990s. This acceleration suggests a sudden decline in the cost of collaboration, perhaps due to improvements in telecommunications. Using a panel of top university departments we find that private universities and departments whose scientists have earned prestigious awards participate in larger teams, as do departments that have larger amounts of federal funding. Placement of former graduate students is a key determinant of institutional collaborations, especially collaborations with firms and foreign scientific institutions. Finally, the evidence indicates that scientific influence increases with team size and institutional collaborations. Since increasing team size implies an increase in the division of labor, these results suggest that scientific productivity increases with the scientific division of labor.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10640.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Publication status: published as Adams, James D. & Black, Grant C. & Clemmons, J. Roger & Stephan, Paula E., 2005. "Scientific teams and institutional collaborations: Evidence from U.S. universities, 1981-1999," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 259-285, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10640
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  1. Becker, G.S. & Murphy, K.M., 1991. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 92-5, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  2. Diana Hicks & J Sylvan Katz, 1996. "Science policy for a highly collaborative science system," Science and Public Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(1), pages 39-44, February.
  3. James D. Adams & Eric P. Chiang & Jeffrey L. Jensen, 2003. "The Influence of Federal Laboratory R&D on Industrial Research," Rensselaer Working Papers in Economics 0301, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Economics.
  4. Mowery, David C. & Simcoe, Timothy, 2002. "Is the Internet a US invention?--an economic and technological history of computer networking," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(8-9), pages 1369-1387, December.
  5. Kandel, Eugene & Lazear, Edward P, 1992. "Peer Pressure and Partnerships," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 801-17, August.
  6. Becker, Gary S, 1985. "Human Capital, Effort, and the Sexual Division of Labor," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages S33-58, January.
  7. James D. Adams & Eric P. Chiang & Katara Starkey, 2000. "Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers," NBER Working Papers 7843, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Dixit, Avinash K., 1990. "Optimization in Economic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, edition 2, number 9780198772101, March.
  9. Bengt Holmstrom, 1982. "Moral Hazard in Teams," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 324-340, Autumn.
  10. James D. Adams & Mircea Marcu, 2004. "R&D Sourcing, Joint Ventures and Innovation: A Multiple Indicators Approach," NBER Working Papers 10474, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. James D. Adams & Zvi Griliches, 1996. "Research Productivity in a System of Universities," NBER Working Papers 5833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Sherwin Rosen, 1982. "Authority, Control, and the Distribution of Earnings," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 311-323, Autumn.
  13. Arora, Ashish & Gambardella, Alfonso, 1990. "Complementarity and External Linkages: The Strategies of the Large Firms in Biotechnology," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(4), pages 361-79, June.
  14. Eli M. Noam, 2001. "Interconnecting the Network of Networks," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262140721, June.
  15. Ronald G. Ehrenberg, 2002. "Studying Ourselves: The Academic Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 8965, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S71-102, October.
  17. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
  18. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby & Jeff S. Armstrong, 2002. "Commercializing Knowledge: University Science, Knowledge Capture, and Firm Performance in Biotechnology," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(1), pages 138-153, January.
  19. James D. Adams, 2001. "Comparative Localization of Academic and Industrial Spillovers," NBER Working Papers 8292, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Sauer, Raymond D, 1988. "Estimates of the Returns to Quality and Coauthorship in Economic Academia," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 855-66, August.
  21. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-58, December.
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