The (Changing) Knowledge Production Function: Evidence from the MIT Department of Biology for 1970-2000

Annamaria Conti, Christopher C. Liu

Chapter in NBER book The Changing Frontier: Rethinking Science and Innovation Policy (2015), Adam B. Jaffe and Benjamin F. Jones, editors (p. 49 - 74)
Conference held August 2-3, 2013
Published in July 2015 by University of Chicago Press
© 2015 by the National Bureau of Economic Research

Considerable attention has been focused, in recent years, on the role that graduate and postdoc students play in the production of academic knowledge. Using data from the MIT Department of Biology for the period 1970-2000, we analyzed the changes over time of four fundamental aspects of their productivity: i) training duration; ii) time to a first publication; iii) productivity over the training period; and iv) collaboration patterns with other scientists. We identified four main trends that are common to graduate students and postdocs. First, training periods have increased for later cohorts of graduate and postdoc students. Second, later cohorts tend to publish their initial first-author article later than the earlier cohorts. Third, they produce fewer first-author publications. Finally, collaborations with other scientists, as measured by the number of coauthors on a paper, have increased. This increase is driven by collaborations with scientists external to a trainee's laboratory. We interpret these results in light of the following two paradigms: the increased burden of knowledge that later generations of scientists face and the limited availability of permanent academic positions.

download in pdf format
   (706 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.7208/chicago/9780226286860.003.0003

This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w20037, The (Changing) Knowledge Production Function: Evidence from the MIT Department of Biology for 1970-2000, Annamaria Conti, Christopher C. Liu
Users who downloaded this chapter also downloaded* these:
Nanda, Younge, and Fleming Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Renewable Energy
Freeman, Ganguli, and Murciano-Goroff Why and Wherefore of Increased Scientific Collaboration
Agrawal, McHale, and Oettl Collaboration, Stars, and the Changing Organization of Science: Evidence from Evolutionary Biology
Feldman and Lanahan State Science Policy Experiments
Stephan The Endless Frontier: Reaping What Bush Sowed?
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us