Does Knowledge Accumulation Increase the Returns to Collaboration?
We conduct the first empirical test of the knowledge burden hypothesis, one of several theories advanced to explain increasing team sizes in science. For identification, we exploit the collapse of the USSR as an exogenous shock to the knowledge frontier causing a sudden release of previously hidden research. We report evidence that team size increased disproportionately in Soviet-rich relative to -poor subfields of theoretical mathematics after 1990. Furthermore, consistent with the hypothesized mechanism, scholars in Soviet-rich subfields disproportionately increased citations to Soviet prior art and became increasingly specialized.
This research was funded by the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Rotman School of Management, the Martin Prosperity Institute, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We thank Kirk Doran, Danielle Li, and seminar participants at the Organization, Economics, and Policy of Scientific Research workshop, REER, the Workshop on Scholarly Communication and Open Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University, and the University of Toronto for valuable feedback. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Avi Goldfarb has between $5,000 and $10,000 in equity in several publicly traded technology companies as part of a broad investment portfolio.