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Collaboration, Stars, and the Changing Organization of Science

Collaboration, Stars, and the Changing Organization of Science

Evidence from Evolutionary Biology

(p.75) 3 Collaboration, Stars, and the Changing Organization of Science
The Changing Frontier
Ajay AgrawalJohn McHaleAlexander Oettl
University of Chicago Press

The concentration of research output is declining at the department level but increasing at the individual level. In evolutionary biology, from 1980 to 2000, the fraction of citation-weighted publications produced by the top 20% of departments falls from approximately 75% to 60% but rises for the top 20% of individual scientists from 70% to 80%. This may be due to changing patterns of collaboration, perhaps caused by the rising burden of knowledge and the falling cost of communication, which increase the returns to collaboration. The propensity to collaborate is found to be rising over time and the nature of collaboration is changing. The geographic distance and the difference in institution rank between collaborators is increasing. The relative size of the pool of potential distant collaborators for star versus non-star scientists is rising. This chapter develops a simple model based on star advantage in terms of opportunities for collaboration that provides a unified explanation for these facts. Finally, considering the effect of individual location decisions of stars on the overall distribution of human capital, this chapter speculates on the efficiency of the emerging distribution of scientific activity, given the localized externalities generated by stars and the increasing returns to distant collaboration.

Keywords:   collaboration, stars, burden of knowledge, communication, internet, agglomeration

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