“A Field Experiment on Search Costs and the Formation of Scientific Collaborations” (with Kevin Boudreau, Tom Brady Ina Ganguli, Eva Guinan, Tony Hollenberg and Karim Lakhani) Forthcoming, Review of Economics and Statistics
We present the results of a field experiment conducted at Harvard Medical School to understand the extent to which search costs affect matching among scientific collaborators. We generated exogenous variation in search costs for pairs of potential collaborators by randomly assigning individuals to 90-minute structured information-sharing sessions as part of a grant funding opportunity. We estimate that the treatment increases the probability of grant co-application of a given pair of researchers by 75%. The findings suggest that matching between scientists is subject to considerable frictions, even in the case of geographically-proximate scientists working in the same institutional context.
When choices are made from ordered lists, individuals can exhibit biases toward selecting certain options as a result of the ordering. We examine this phenomenon in the context of consumer response to the ordering of economics papers in an e-mail announcement issued by the NBER. We show that despite the effectively random list placement, papers listed first each week are about 30% more likely to be viewed, downloaded, and subsequently cited. We suggest that a model of “skimming” behavior, where individuals focus on the first few papers in the list due to time constraints, would be most consistent with our findings.
The net welfare benefit of the ‘brain drain’ of skilled workers depends on their propensity to return to their home countries. Yet, relatively little is known empirically about the return migration decisions of skilled workers. Here, I study a sample of 1460 foreign faculty in research-intensive US universities, using publicly available academic records to reconstruct career histories and create a longitudinal panel. Return occurs early in the career and is responsive to changes in income per capita in the source country. The evidence on the effect of ability on the decision to return is mixed.
Chinese Graduate Students and U.S. Scientific Productivity. (with Mario Piacentini) Review of Economics and Statistics (2013)
The migration of young Chinese scientists to undertake graduate studies in U.S. universities is arguably one of the most important recent episodes of skilled migration. Using a new data set covering around 16,000 Ph.D. graduates in 161 U.S. chemistry departments, we show that Chinese students have a scientific output during their thesis that is significantly higher than other students. In fact, conditional on acceptance into the same programs, Chinese students perform about as well as the awardees of the NSF doctoral fellowship program. These results shed new light on the benefits of student migration on scientific productivity of destination countries.
Cross-sectional studies typically find positive correlations between free availability of scientific articles (‘open access’) and citations. Using a number of instruments as plausible sources of exogeneous variation, we find no evidence for a causal effect of open access on citations. We provide theory and evidence suggesting that authors of higher quality papers are more likely to choose open access in hybrid journals which offer an open access option. Self-selection mechanisms may thus explain the discrepancy between the positive correlation found in Eysenbach (2006) and other cross-sectional studies and the absence of such correlation in the field experiment of Davis et al. (2008).
Is the US outperforming Europe in university technology licensing? A new perspective on the European Paradox (with Annamaria Conti) Research Policy (2011)
Europe is perceived to be lagging behind the US in converting its academic results into economic outcomes. Using new survey data on European and US technology transfer offices (TTOs), we find that differences in academic research, TTO staff and experience explain to a great extent the gap between the US and Europe in terms of the number of license agreements concluded. However, these factors account for only part of the difference in license income. We relate the difference in licensing income to differences in the organization and staffing of TTOs. Our analysis reveals that US TTOs do not attach more importance to generating revenue as an objective than their European counterparts. However, they employ more staff with experience in industry which explains some of the remaining differential in license income performance.