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Collaboration Structure and Information Dilemmas in Biotechnology: Organizational Boundaries as Trust Production

  • Lynne G. Zucker
  • Michael R. Darby
  • Marilynn B. Brewer
  • Yusheng Peng

Scientists who make breakthrough discoveries can receive above- normal returns to their intellectual capital, with returns depending on the degree of natural excludability - that is, whether necessary techniques can be learned through written reports or instead require hands-on experience with the discovering scientists or those trained by them in their laboratory. Privatizing discoveries, then, only requires selecting trusted others as collaborators, most often scientists working in the same organization. Within organizational boundaries, incentives become aligned based on repeat and future exchange, coupled with third-party monitoring and enforcement. We find that high value intellectual capital paradoxically predicts both a larger number of collaborators and more of that network contained within the same organization. Specifically, same-organization collaboration pairs are more likely when the value of the intellectual capital is high: both are highly productive 'star' scientists, both are located in top quality bioscience university departments, or both are located in a firm (higher ability to capture returns). Collaboration across organization boundaries, in contrast, is negatively related to the value of intellectual capital and positively related to the number of times the star scientist has moved. Organizational boundaries act as information envelopes: The more valuable the information produced, the more its dissemination is limited. In geographic areas where a higher proportion of coauthor pairs come from the same organization, diffusion to new collaborators is retarded.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w5199.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5199.

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Date of creation: Jul 1995
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Publication status: published as Kramer, Roderick M. and Tom R. Tyler (eds.) Trust in Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5199
Note: PR
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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Web page: http://www.nber.org
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  1. Michael R. Darby & John R. Lott, Jr., 1975. "Qualitative Information, Reputation, and Monopolistic Competition," NBER Working Papers 0095, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Coase, R H, 1988. "The Nature of the Firm: Origin," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 3-17, Spring.
  3. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
  4. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby & Marilynn B. Brewer, 1994. "Intellectual Capital and the Birth of U.S. Biotechnology Enterprises," NBER Working Papers 4653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Geertz, Clifford, 1978. "The Bazaar Economy: Information and Search in Peasant Marketing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 28-32, May.
  6. Jerry A. Hausman & Bronwyn H. Hall & Zvi Griliches, 1984. "Econometric Models for Count Data with an Application to the Patents-R&D Relationship," NBER Technical Working Papers 0017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Darby, Michael R & Karni, Edi, 1973. "Free Competition and the Optimal Amount of Fraud," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 67-88, April.
  8. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby & Jeff Armstrong, 1994. "Intellectual Capital and the Firm: The Technology of Geographically Localized Knowledge Spillovers," NBER Working Papers 4946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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