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Superstar Extinction

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

We estimate the magnitude of spillovers generated by 112 academic "superstars" who died pre- maturely 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."

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14577.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14577.

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Date of creation: Dec 2008
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Publication status: published as Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Jialan Wang, 2010. "Superstar Extinction," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(2), pages 549-589, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14577
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  1. 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.
  2. Manuel Trajtenberg & Gil Shiff & Ran Melamed, 2006. "The "Names Game": Harnessing Inventors' Patent Data for Economic Research," NBER Working Papers 12479, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Mary Benner & Joel Waldfogel, 2007. "Close to You? Bias and Precision in Patent-Based Measures of Technological Proximity," NBER Working Papers 13322, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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