Completed Research Projects (2015)

Last year we listed research projects that were completed under this research program. Here are the projects completed for 2015:

Neil Thompson, Arvids Ziedonis and David Mowery, “University Licensing and the Flow of Knowledge”

As university involvement in technology transfer and entrepreneurship has increased, concerns over the patenting and licensing of scientific discoveries have grown. This paper examines the effect that the licensing of academic patents has on journal citations to academic publications covering the same scientific research. We analyze data on invention disclosures, patents, and licenses from the University of California, a leading U.S. academic patenter and licensor, between 1997 and 2007. We also develop a novel “inventor–based” maximum–likelihood matching technique to automate and generalize Murray’s (2002) “patent–paper pairs” methodology. We use this methodology to identify the scientific publications associated with University of California patents and licenses.

Based on a “differences–in–differences” analysis, we find that, in general, licenses are associated with an increase in journal citations to related scientific publications. The timing of this effect supports recent research that suggests that academic licenses may act as positive signals of research potential in research fields linked to the licensed invention (Drivas et al. 2014). In contrast, we find that licensing of research inputs (which we identify through the use of material transfer agreements, or MTAs) depresses citations to related scientific publications.

Our results suggest that, overall, licensing of academic patents does not limit scientific communication linked to patented academic research. But our findings on the effects of licenses on research inputs, however, raise the possibility that licensing may restrict the flow of inputs to further scientific research among researchers.

Sen Chai, “Temporary Colocation and Collaborative Discovery”

Our understanding of how collaborative relationships form remains relatively thin. I assess a specific vehicle that fosters the formation of collaborations by studying how temporarily colocating at conferences affects attendees’ research trajectory. The lack of empirical evidence on the impact of conferences on participants has fueled a heated debate. On the one hand, researchers are advised to attend conferences to further their careers, but there are obvious trade-offs of diverted funding and potential productivity loss while away from the bench. I use difference-in-differences regressions on a sample of attendees from Gordon Research Conferences and most similar matched researchers, and several different cuts of the data to address endogeneity of better researchers selected to present, existing co-authors attending together and choosing to go to a conference. My results suggest that even after a transitory period being colocated, long-term collaborations between conference attendees increase with especially strong effects for those who have never published together beforehand. Conditional on collaborative ties forming, I find collaborative outputs between conference attendees draw more from the knowledge space of the conference and are also more highly cited. Conferences also enable attendees who have never been cited by other attendees to showcase their research as evidenced by increases in within-attendee citations. Given the cumulative nature of research, these findings imply that over time conferences can have a significant impact in steering the research path of attendees, from the works that they cite and build upon to the colleagues with whom they collaborate.

Abishek Nagaraj, “Does Copyright Affect Reuse? Evidence from the Google Books Digitization Project”

While digitization projects like Google Books have dramatically increased access to information, this study examines how the ability to reuse information and diffuse knowledge to a wider audience depends crucially on features of copyright law. I use the digitization of both copyrighted and non-copyrighted issues of Baseball Digest, a publication digitized under Google Books to measure the impact of copyright on a prominent venue for reuse: Wikipedia. A specific feature of the 1909 Copyright Act, copyright renewal requirements ensure that material published before 1964 is out of copyright, which allows causal estimation of the impact of copyright on Wikipedia across this sharp cutoff. Estimates suggest that the Google Books digitization event caused a significant increase in information on Wikipedia pages, but copyright hurt the extent of diffusion as measured by citations as well as the reuse of images and text. The negative impact of copyright on diffusion is more pronounced for images than for text, and for topics that have few alternate sources of information. Information deficiencies due to copyright have real impacts on readership – affected pages have on average 30-80% less internet traffic than pages unaffected by copyright.

Alessandro Iaria and Fabian Waldinger, “International Knowledge Flows: Evidence from the Collapse of International Science in the Wake of WWI”

We analyze international knowledge flows as measured by citations in scientific papers. To separate knowledge flows from other cross-country differences, we investigate a large and sudden shock during WWI and the subsequent boycott of scientists from Central countries. The boycott increased citation penalties against enemy countries by around 100%, indicat- ing a substantial reduction in international knowledge flows. Additional results show that our findings are not driven by discrimination against enemy papers but rather by a genuine reduction in knowledge flows, and that some knowledge that was produced during the boy- cott never reached the enemy camp. We also provide suggestive evidence that the collapse of international science affected the world-wide production of Nobel Prize worthy ideas.

Florenta Teodoridis, “Generalists, Specialists and the Direction of Inventive Activity”

Due to the cumulative nature of innovation, access to knowledge is important. I examine how a change in the cost of access to knowledge influences inventive activity by exploiting the hack of Microsoft Kinect as an exogenous event resulting in an unexpected reduction in the cost of motion-sensing research technology. Despite a growing emphasis on the importance of specialists for knowledge creation, I identify researchers with broader exposure to knowledge – generalists – as playing an important role in responding to opportunities for knowledge creation and influencing the direction of inventive activity.

Neil Gandal and Uriel Stettner, “Network Dynamics, Knowledge Transfer, and Incremental Innovations in Virtual Organizations”

Employing a model of knowledge spillovers, we find empirical evidence consistent with both direct and indirect spillovers among open source software projects. This result is robust to analyses using a fixed effect model or a difference model looking at differences over the 2006 to 2009 period. There is also evidence that the addition of a “star” programmer to the project is associated with greater success, even after controlling for the induced changes in the network structure that are associated with the star’s additional direct connections to other projects. Interestingly, we further find strong evidence that project modifications are positively associated with project success. This suggests that “incremental” innovations are critical to project success.

Chiara Franzoni and Henry Sauermann, “Crowd Science: The Organization of Scientific Research in Open Collaboration Projects,” Research Policy, 43, 2014, pp.1-20.

A growing amount of scientific research is done in an open collaborative fashion, in projects sometimes referred to as “crowd science”, “citizen science”, or “networked science”. This paper seeks to gain a more systematic understanding of crowd science and to provide scholars with a conceptual framework and an agenda for future research. First, we briefly present three case examples that span different fields of science and illustrate the heterogeneity concerning what crowd science projects do and how they are organized. Second, we identify two fundamental elements that characterize crowd science projects – open participation and open sharing of intermediate inputs – and distinguish crowd science from other knowledge production regimes such as innovation contests or traditional “Mertonian” science. Third, we explore potential knowledge-related and motivational benefits that crowd science offers over alternative organizational modes, and potential challenges it is likely to face. Drawing on prior research on the organization of problem solving, we also consider for what kinds of tasks particular benefits or challenges are likely to be most pronounced. We conclude by outlining an agenda for future research and by discussing implications for funding agencies and policy makers.

Henry Sauermann and Chiara Franzoni, “Crowd science user contribution patterns and their implications,” PNAS, January 20, 2015.

Scientific research performed with the involvement of the broader public (the crowd) attracts increasing attention from scientists and policy makers. A key premise is that project organizers may be able to draw on underused human resources to advance research at relatively low cost. Despite a growing number of examples, systematic research on the effort contributions volunteers are willing to make to crowd science projects is lacking. Analyzing data on seven different projects, we quantify the financial value volunteers can bring by comparing their unpaid contributions with counterfactual costs in traditional or online labor markets. The volume of total contributions is substantial, although some projects are much more successful in attracting effort than others. Moreover, contributions received by projects are very uneven across time—a tendency toward declining activity is interrupted by spikes typically resulting from outreach efforts or media atten- tion. Analyzing user-level data, we find that most contributors participate only once and with little effort, leaving a relatively small share of users who return responsible for most of the work. Although top contributor status is earned primarily through higher levels of effort, top contributors also tend to work faster. This speed advantage develops over multiple sessions, suggesting that it reflects learning rather than inherent differences in skills. Our findings inform recent discussions about potential benefits from crowd science, suggest that involving the crowd may be more effective for some kinds of projects than others, provide guidance for project managers, and raise important questions for future research.

Pierre Azoulay, Alessandro Bonatti and Joshua Krieger, “The Career Effects of Scandal: Evidence from Scientific Retractions”

Scandals permeate social and economic life, but their consequences have received scant attention in the economics literature. To shed empirical light on this phenomenon, we investigate how the scientific community’s perception of a scientist’s prior work changes when one of his articles is retracted. Relative to non-retracted control authors, faculty members who experience a retraction see the citation rate to their articles drop by 10% on average, consistent with the Bayesian intuition that the market inferred their work was mediocre all along. We then investigate whether the eminence of the retracted author, and the publicity surrounding the retraction, shape the magnitude of the penalty. We find that eminent scientists are more harshly penalized than their less-distinguished peers in the wake of a retraction, but only in cases involving fraud or misconduct. When the retraction event had it source in “honest mistakes,” we find no evidence of differential stigma between high- and low-status faculty members.

Martin Byford, “Moral Hazard in Strategic Decision Making”

This paper develops a theory of managerial incentives based on the manager’s role as strategic decision-maker within the firm. Career concerns give rise to preferences over risk, creating an incentive for the manger to manipulate the firm’s risk at the expense of (expected) profits. The resultant moral hazard can be ameliorated by an incentive contract. However, contracting is complicated by the failure of the Monotone Likelihood Ratio Condition to hold.

A solution is proposed in which a Non-Decreasing Wage Constraint is incorporated into the contracting problem. This solution overcomes the practical problems created by a non- monotone likelihood ratio at the expense of discarding some of the information present in the firm’s profits. The implications of the non-decreasing wage constraint are illustrated in a simple example in which the second-best contract is option-like, with a ‘strike-price’ that is strictly less than the firm’s expected profit and decreasing in both the firm’s risk and the magnitude of the moral hazard problem.

Kyle Siler, “Let 1000 Flowers Bloom, but Please Don’t Step on the Daisies: Scholarly Originality, Peer Review and the Gestation of Published Social Science”

We examine the criticisms and subsequent changes arising in the course of peer review by articles that make different kinds of theoretical contributions. Fifty-two authors recently published in Administrative Science Quarterly were surveyed regarding their peer review experience and how their article changed from initial journal submission to eventual publication. Papers that challenged theoretical perspectives faced distinctively high levels of criticism and change, particularly with attention to methodology, while those that offered a new perspective or extended or combined established perspectives were less criticized and changed. The number of challenge-oriented publications was small as well, suggesting that either few such submissions survive the review process or few are authored in the first place. Overall, the journal publication system appears to encourage the elaboration of theoretical argument but does little to aid in the winnowing out of established perspectives.

Kyle Siler, Kirby Lee and Lisa Bero, “Reply to Margalida and Colomer: Science should strive to prevent mistake, not corrections,” PNAS, March 31, 2015.

Kyle Siler, “Risk in Scientific Quality Control”

This article theorizes risk as a key factor underpinning evaluative cultures in science and knowledge work. It is posited that talent and reward structures in science have opposing distributions. Talent discrepancies decrease moving up the quality gradient, while rewards exponentially increase at the top of the talent distribution. This contributes to a scientific incentive structure that makes avoiding errors of commission easier than avoiding errors of omission. Consequently, most scientific gatekeepers tend to enact risk-averse decision-making. Potential downside risks of science are discussed. Four ideal types of potential innovation outcomes are proffered: The Polarizer, The Specialist, The Lowest Common Denominator and The Overlooked Genius. With these varied innovation outcomes, scholars and gatekeepers are faced with the question of whether increased variance in evaluation of riskier contributions justifies lesser, equal or greater mean quality on the whole. Examples of upside and downside risk are drawn from the social sciences.

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