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Does Knowledge Accumulation Increase the Returns to Collaboration?

Listed author(s):
  • 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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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19694.pdf
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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
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19694
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  1. Adams, James D. & Black, Grant C. & Clemmons, J. Roger & Stephan, Paula E., 2005. "Scientific teams and institutional collaborations: Evidence from U.S. universities, 1981-1999," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 259-285, April.
  2. Kim, E. Han & Morse, Adair & Zingales, Luigi, 2009. "Are elite universities losing their competitive edge?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(3), pages 353-381, September.
  3. Benjamin F. Jones, 2009. "The Burden of Knowledge and the "Death of the Renaissance Man": Is Innovation Getting Harder?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 283-317.
  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.
  5. 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 1578-1590, September.
  6. Daron Acemoglu & Tarek A. Hassan & James A. Robinson, 2011. "Social Structure and Development: A Legacy of the Holocaust in Russia," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 895-946.
  7. George J. Borjas & Kirk B. Doran, 2012. "The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(3), pages 1143-1203.
  8. 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.
  9. George J. Borjas & Kirk B. Doran, 2015. "Cognitive Mobility: Labor Market Responses to Supply Shocks in the Space of Ideas," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(S1), pages 109-145.
  10. George J. Borjas & Kirk B. Doran, 2015. "Which Peers Matter? The Relative Impacts of Collaborators, Colleagues, and Competitors," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1104-1117, December.
  11. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2005. "Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 835-864.
  12. Fabian Waldinger, 2012. "Peer Effects in Science: Evidence from the Dismissal of Scientists in Nazi Germany," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(2), pages 838-861.
  13. Benjamin F. Jones, 2008. "The Knowledge Trap: Human Capital and Development Reconsidered," NBER Working Papers 14138, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Alexander Oettl, 2012. "Reconceptualizing Stars: Scientist Helpfulness and Peer Performance," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(6), pages 1122-1140, June.
  15. 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.
  16. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-858, December.
  17. Zucker, Lynne G & Darby, Michael R & Brewer, Marilynn B, 1998. "Intellectual Human Capital and the Birth of U.S. Biotechnology Enterprises," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 290-306, March.
  18. Jasjit Singh & Lee Fleming, 2010. "Lone Inventors as Sources of Breakthroughs: Myth or Reality?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(1), pages 41-56, January.
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