Resting on Their Laureates? Research Productivity Among Winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is the most prestigious and coveted award in medical research. Anecdotal evidence and related research suggest that receiving it may adversely affect research productivity. We compared the post-Nobel research output of laureates (prize years: 1950-2010) with their pre-Nobel output and with the output of a matched control group consisting of winners of the Lasker Award, another highly prestigious medical research prize. Pre-Nobel, laureates’ publications were more voluminous, highly cited, and novel than those of (future) Lasker winners. Post-Nobel, laureates’ productivity decreased sharply, eventually falling below that of Lasker winners on all three measures. These declines may reflect diversionary effects of the Prize, changed incentives, or intrinsically different career arcs for medical researchers who win the Nobel Prize.
We thank Bruce Weinberg, Joel Blit, Neeraj Sood, Vetla Torvik, Neil Smallheiser, Gerald Marschke, and Partha Bhattacharyya for helpful discussions. We also thank seminar participants at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (London), the University of Illinois at Chicago Institute of Government and Public Affairs, Stanford Medical School, Ca’Foscari University of Venice, Johns Hopkins University, American Economic Association Annual Conference, Asia Pacific Innovation Conference (Beijing), Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, the Latin American, Caribbean Economics Association - Latin American Meeting of the Econometric Society (LACEA-LAMES) Annual Meeting, India Conference on Innovation, Intellectual Property, and Competition at the Indian School of Business (Hyderabad), and the National Bureau of Economic Research working group on Invention in an Aging Society for helpful feedback. Finally, Drs. Bhattacharya and Packalen thank the National Institute of Aging for funding this research through grant P01-AG039347. None of the other authors have any relevant funding to disclose. None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to disclose. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.