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Prizes and Productivity- How Winning the Fields Medal Affects Scientific Output

  • Kirk B. Doran


    (Department of Economics, University of Notre Dame)

  • George J. Borjas

    (Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University)

Knowledge generation is key to economic growth, and scientific prizes are designed to encourage it. But how does winning a prestigious prize affect future output? We compare the productivity of Fields medalists (winners of the top mathematics prize) to that of similarly brilliant contenders. The two groups have similar publication rates until the award year, after which the winners’ productivity declines. The medalists begin to “play the field,” studying unfamiliar topics at the expense of writing papers. It appears that tournaments can have large post-prize effects on the effort allocation of knowledge producers.

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Paper provided by University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 022.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2013
Date of revision: Aug 2013
Handle: RePEc:nod:wpaper:022
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  8. Barmby, Tim & Eberth, Barbara & Ma, Ada, 2012. "Incentives, learning, task difficulty, and the Peter Principle: Interpreting individual output changes in an Organisational Hierarchy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 76-81.
  9. Ehrenberg, Ronald G & Bognanno, Michael L, 1990. "Do Tournaments Have Incentive Effects?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1307-24, December.
  10. Suzanne Scotchmer, 2006. "Innovation and Incentives," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262693437, December.
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