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Resting on Their Laureates? Research Productivity Among Winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine


  • Jay Bhattacharya
  • Paul Bollyky
  • Jeremy D. Goldhaber-Fiebert
  • Geir H. Holom
  • Mikko Packalen
  • David M. Studdert


The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is the most prestigious and coveted award in medical research. Anecdotal evidence and related research suggest that receiving it may adversely affect research productivity. We compared the post-Nobel research output of laureates (prize years: 1950-2010) with their pre-Nobel output and with the output of a matched control group consisting of winners of the Lasker Award, another highly prestigious medical research prize. Pre-Nobel, laureates’ publications were more voluminous, highly cited, and novel than those of (future) Lasker winners. Post-Nobel, laureates’ productivity decreased sharply, eventually falling below that of Lasker winners on all three measures. These declines may reflect diversionary effects of the Prize, changed incentives, or intrinsically different career arcs for medical researchers who win the Nobel Prize.

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  • Jay Bhattacharya & Paul Bollyky & Jeremy D. Goldhaber-Fiebert & Geir H. Holom & Mikko Packalen & David M. Studdert, 2023. "Resting on Their Laureates? Research Productivity Among Winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine," NBER Working Papers 31352, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:31352
    Note: EH PR

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
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    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights

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