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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. 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.
  2. Ajay K. Agrawal & Avi Goldfarb, 2006. "Restructuring Research: Communication Costs and the Democratization of University Innovation," NBER Working Papers 12812, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. George J. Borjas & Kirk B. Doran, 2014. "Which Peers Matter? The Relative Impacts of Collaborators, Colleagues, and Competitors," NBER Working Papers 20026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Alexander Oettl, 2012. "Reconceptualizing Stars: Scientist Helpfulness and Peer Performance," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(6), pages 1122-1140, June.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Fabian Waldinger, 2009. "Peer Effects in Science - Evidence from the Dismissal of Scientists in Nazi Germany," CEP Discussion Papers dp0910, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Benjamin F. Jones, 2005. "The Burden of Knowledge and the 'Death of the Renaissance Man': Is Innovation Getting Harder?," NBER Working Papers 11360, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Benjamin F. Jones, 2008. "The Knowledge Trap: Human Capital and Development Reconsidered," NBER Working Papers 14138, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. 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.
  17. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-58, December.
  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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