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Does Knowledge Accumulation Increase the Returns to Collaboration?

  • Ajay Agrawal
  • Avi Goldfarb
  • Florenta Teodoridis

We conduct the first empirical test of the knowledge burden hypothesis, one of several theories advanced to explain increasing team sizes in science. For identification, we exploit the collapse of the USSR as an exogenous shock to the knowledge frontier causing a sudden release of previously hidden research. We report evidence that team size increased disproportionately in Soviet-rich relative to -poor subfields of theoretical mathematics after 1990. Furthermore, consistent with the hypothesized mechanism, scholars in Soviet-rich subfields disproportionately increased citations to Soviet prior art and became increasingly specialized.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19694.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19694
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  1. James D. Adams, 2004. "Scientific Teams and Institution Collaborations: Evidence from U.S. Universities, 1981-1999," NBER Working Papers 10640, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Benjamin F. Jones, 2005. "The burden of knowledge and the ‘death of the Renaissance man’: Is innovation getting harder?," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  3. E. Han Kim & Adair Morse & Luigi Zingales, 2006. "Are Elite Universities Losing Their Competitive Edge?," NBER Working Papers 12245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Dubois, Pierre & Rochet, Jean-Charles & Schlenker, Jean-Marc, 2010. "Productivity and Mobility in Academic Research: Evidence from Mathematicians," TSE Working Papers 12-307, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Mar 2013.
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  7. Doran, Kirk & Borjas, George J., 2012. "The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians," Scholarly Articles 8160722, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  8. George J. Borjas & Kirk B. Doran, 2012. "Cognitive Mobility: Labor Market Responses to Supply Shocks in the Space of Ideas," NBER Working Papers 18614, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Tarek A. Hassan & James A. Robinson, 2010. "Social Structure and Development: A Legacy of the Holocaust in Russia," NBER Working Papers 16083, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Kirk B. Doran & George J. Borjas, 2013. "Which Peers Matter? The Relative Impacts of Collaborators, Colleagues, and Competitors," Working Papers 021, University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2013.
  11. Jasjit Singh & Lee Fleming, 2010. "Lone Inventors as Sources of Breakthroughs: Myth or Reality?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(1), pages 41-56, January.
  12. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2005. "Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 835-864, August.
  13. Fabian Waldinger, 2010. "Quality Matters: The Expulsion of Professors and the Consequences for PhD Student Outcomes in Nazi Germany," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 787-831, 08.
  14. Eric T. Stuen & Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak & Keith E. Maskus, 2012. "Skilled Immigration and Innovation: Evidence from Enrolment Fluctuations in US Doctoral Programmes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(565), pages 1143-1176, December.
  15. Benjamin F. Jones, 2008. "The Knowledge Trap: Human Capital and Development Reconsidered," NBER Working Papers 14138, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Ajay Agrawal & Avi Goldfarb, 2008. "Restructuring Research: Communication Costs and the Democratization of University Innovation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1578-90, September.
  17. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-58, December.
  18. Alexander Oettl, 2012. "Reconceptualizing Stars: Scientist Helpfulness and Peer Performance," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(6), pages 1122-1140, June.
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