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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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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:

    1. 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.
    2. Pierre Azoulay & Alessandro Bonatti & Joshua L. Krieger, 2015. "The Career Effects of Scandal: Evidence from Scientific Retractions," NBER Working Papers 21146, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Pierre Azoulay & Jeffrey L. Furman & Joshua L. Krieger & Fiona E. Murray, 2012. "Retractions," NBER Working Papers 18499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Pierre Azoulay & Joshua S. Graff Zivin & Danielle Li & Bhaven N. Sampat, 2015. "Public R&D Investments and Private-sector Patenting: Evidence from NIH Funding Rules," NBER Working Papers 20889, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. 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.
    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.

    More about this item

    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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