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The Diffusion of Scientific Knowledge Across Time and Space: Evidence from Professional Transitions for the Superstars of Medicine

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  • Pierre Azoulay
  • Joshua S. Graff Zivin
  • Bhaven N. Sampat

Abstract

Are scientific knowledge flows embodied in individuals, or "in the air"? To answer this question, we measure the effect of labor mobility in a sample of 9,483 elite academic life scientists on the citation trajectories associated with individual articles (resp. patents) published (resp. granted) before the scientist moved to a new institution. We find that article-to-article citations from the scientific community at the superstar's origin location are barely affected by their departure. In contrast, article-to-patent citations, and especially patent-to-patent citations, decline at the origin location following a star's departure, suggesting that spillovers from academia to industry are not completely disembodied. We also find that article-to-article citations at the superstar's destination location markedly increase after they move. Our results suggest that, to be realized, knowledge flows to industry may require more face-to-face interaction than those to academics. Moreover, to the extent that academic scientists do not internalize the effect of their location decisions on the circulation of ideas, our results raise the intriguing possibility that barriers to labor mobility in academic science limit the recombination of individual bits of knowledge, resulting in a suboptimal rate of scientific exploration.

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  • Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Bhaven N. Sampat, 2011. "The Diffusion of Scientific Knowledge Across Time and Space: Evidence from Professional Transitions for the Superstars of Medicine," NBER Working Papers 16683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16683
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    Cited by:

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    2. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby, 2014. "Defacto and Deeded Intellectual Property: Knowledge-Driven Co-Evolution of Firm Collaboration Boundaries and IPR Stragtegy," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 115-116, pages 221-251.
    3. Klaus Jaffe & Mario Caicedo & Marcos Manzanares & Mario Gil & Alfredo Rios & Astrid Florez & Claudia Montoreano & Vicente Davila, 2013. "Productivity in Physical and Chemical Science Predicts the Future Economic Growth of Developing Countries Better than Other Popular Indices," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 8(6), pages 1-10, June.
    4. Fraser, Timothy & Aldrich, Daniel P. & Page-Tan, Courtney, 2021. "Bowling alone or distancing together? The role of social capital in excess death rates from COVID19," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 284(C).
    5. Kahn, Shulamit & MacGarvie, Megan, 2016. "Do return requirements increase international knowledge diffusion? Evidence from the Fulbright program," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(6), pages 1304-1322.
    6. Burak Dindaroglu, 2010. "Intra-Industry Knowledge Spillovers and Scientific Labor Mobility," Discussion Papers 10-01, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
    7. Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S Graff Zivin & Danielle Li & Bhaven N Sampat, 2019. "Public R&D Investments and Private-sector Patenting: Evidence from NIH Funding Rules," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(1), pages 117-152.
    8. Azoulay, Pierre & Ganguli, Ina & Graff Zivin, Joshua, 2017. "The mobility of elite life scientists: Professional and personal determinants," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 573-590.
    9. Azoulay, Pierre & Bonatti, Alessandro & Krieger, Joshua L., 2017. "The career effects of scandal: Evidence from scientific retractions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(9), pages 1552-1569.
    10. Ina Ganguli, 2015. "Immigration and Ideas: What Did Russian Scientists "Bring" to the United States?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(S1), pages 257-288.
    11. Leila Agha & David Molitor, 2015. "The Local Influence of Pioneer Investigators on Technology Adoption: Evidence from New Cancer Drugs," NBER Working Papers 20878, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Nick Pantaleo & Finn Poschmann & Scott Wilkie, 2013. "Improving the Tax Treatment of Intellectual Property Income in Canada," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 379, April.
    13. Matt Marx & Aaron Fuegi, 2020. "Reliance on science: Worldwide front‐page patent citations to scientific articles," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(9), pages 1572-1594, September.
    14. Ke, Qing, 2018. "Comparing scientific and technological impact of biomedical research," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 706-717.
    15. Olof Ejermo & Claudio Fassio & John Källström, 2020. "Does Mobility across Universities Raise Scientific Productivity?," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 82(3), pages 603-624, June.
    16. Azagra-Caro, Joaquín M. & Barberá-Tomás, David & Edwards-Schachter, Mónica & Tur, Elena M., 2017. "Dynamic interactions between university-industry knowledge transfer channels: A case study of the most highly cited academic patent," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 463-474.
    17. Pierre Azoulay & Jeffrey L. Furman & Joshua L. Krieger & Fiona E. Murray, 2012. "Retractions," NBER Working Papers 18499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Liu, Meijun & Hu, Xiao, 2021. "Will collaborators make scientists move? A Generalized Propensity Score analysis," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1).
    19. Malgorzata Wachowska, 2018. "Cluster as place of efficient diffusion of knowledge. Experiences of Lower Silesia," Managerial Economics, AGH University of Science and Technology, Faculty of Management, vol. 19(2), pages 227-249.
    20. Furman, Jeffrey L. & Jensen, Kyle & Murray, Fiona, 2012. "Governing knowledge in the scientific community: Exploring the role of retractions in biomedicine," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 276-290.

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    JEL classification:

    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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