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Prizes and Productivity: How Winning the Fields Medal Affects Scientific Output

  • George J. Borjas
  • Kirk B. Doran

Knowledge generation is key to economic growth, and scientific prizes are designed to encourage it. But how does winning a prestigious prize affect future output? We compare the productivity of Fields medalists (winners of the top mathematics prize) to that of similarly brilliant contenders. The two groups have similar publication rates until the award year, after which the winners' productivity declines. The medalists begin to "play the field," studying unfamiliar topics at the expense of writing papers. It appears that tournaments can have large post-prize effects on the effort allocation of knowledge producers.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19445.

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Date of creation: Sep 2013
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Publication status: published as George J. Borjas & Kirk B. Doran, 2015. "Prizes and Productivity: How Winning the Fields Medal Affects Scientific Output," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 50(3), pages 728-758.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19445
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  1. Kirk Doran & Kirk Doran, 2012. "The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians," Working Papers 002, University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2012.
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