Science of Science

The Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH) is interested in understanding the science of science, and is conducting research on the science production function, knowledge creation and evaluation, and the management of research and development labs and organizations. LISH aims to understand how labs operate, what makes them productive or efficient, and what are the drivers, behaviors, and motivations behind innovative work. Browse LISH’s Science of Science projects and papers below.

Publications

Kyle R. Myers, Wei Yang Tham, Yian Yin, Nina Cohodes, Jerry G. Thursby, Marie C. Thursby, Peter E. Schiffer, Joseph T. Walsh, Karim R. Lakhani, and Dashun Wang. Working Paper. “Quantifying the Immediate Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Scientists”. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted the scientific enterprise, but we lack empirical evidence on the nature and magnitude of these disruptions. Here we report the results of a survey of approximately 4,500 Principal Investigators (PIs) at U.S.- and Europe-based research institutions. Distributed in mid-April 2020, the survey solicited information about how scientists' work changed from the onset of the pandemic, how their research output might be affected in the near future, and a wide range of individuals' characteristics. Scientists report a sharp decline in time spent on research on average, but there is substantial heterogeneity with a significant share reporting no change or even increases. Some of this heterogeneity is due to field-specific differences, with laboratory-based fields being the most negatively affected, and some is due to gender, with female scientists reporting larger declines. However, among the individuals' characteristics examined, the largest disruptions are connected to a usually unobserved dimension: childcare. Reporting a young dependent is associated with declines similar in magnitude to those reported by the laboratory-based fields and can account for a significant fraction of gender differences. Amidst scarce evidence about the role of parenting in scientists' work, these results highlight the fundamental and heterogeneous ways this pandemic is affecting the scientific workforce, and may have broad relevance for shaping responses to the pandemic's effect on science and beyond.
Misha Teplitskiy, Hardeep Ranu, Gary Gray, Michael Menietti, Eva Guinan, and Karim Lakhani. Working Paper. “Do Experts Listen to Other Experts? Field Experimental Evidence from Scientific Peer Review.” HBS Working Paper Series. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Organizations in science and elsewhere often rely on committees of experts to make important decisions, such as evaluating early-stage projects and ideas. However, very little is known about how experts influence each other’s opinions and how that influence affects final evaluations. Here, we use a field experiment in scientific peer review to examine experts’ susceptibility to the opinions of others. We recruited 277 faculty members at seven U.S. medical schools to evaluate 47 early stage research proposals in biomedicine. In our experiment, evaluators (1) completed independent reviews of research ideas, (2) received (artificial) scores attributed to anonymous “other reviewers” from the same or a different discipline, and (3) decided whether to update their initial scores. Evaluators did not meet in person and were not otherwise aware of each other. We find that, even in a completely anonymous setting and controlling for a range of career factors, women updated their scores 13% more often than men, while very highly cited “superstar” reviewers updated 24% less often than others. Women in male-dominated subfields were particularly likely to update, updating 8% more for every 10% decrease in subfield representation. Very low scores were particularly “sticky” and seldom updated upward, suggesting a possible source of conservatism in evaluation. These systematic differences in how world-class experts respond to external opinions can lead to substantial gender and status disparities in whose opinion ultimately matters in collective expert judgment.
Andrea Blasco, Olivia S. Jung, Karim R. Lakhani, and Michael E. Menietti. 4/2019. “Incentives for Public Goods Inside Organizations: Field Experimental Evidence.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 160, Pp. 214-229. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We report results of a natural field experiment conducted at a medical organization that sought contribution of public goods (i.e., projects for organizational improvement) from its 1200 employees. Offering a prize for winning submissions boosted participation by 85 percent without affecting the quality of the submissions. The effect was consistent across gender and job type. We posit that the allure of a prize, in combination with mission-oriented preferences, drove participation. Using a simple model, we estimate that these preferences explain about a third of the magnitude of the effect. We also find that these results were sensitive to the solicited person’s gender.

Kevin Boudreau, Tom Brady, Ina Ganguli, Patrick Gaule, Eva Guinan, Tony Hollenberg, and Karim R. Lakhani. 2017. “A Field Experiment on Search Costs and the Formation of Scientific Collaborations.” The Review of Economics and Statistics, 99, 4, Pp. 565-576. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Scientists typically self-organize into teams, matching with others to collaborate in the production of new knowledge. 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 for biomedical researchers. We estimate that the treatment increases the baseline probability of grant co-application of a given pair of researchers by 75% (increasing the likelihood of a pair collaborating from 0.16 percent to 0.28 percent), with effects higher among those in the same specialization. The findings indicate that matching between scientists is subject to considerable frictions, even in the case of geographically-proximate scientists working in the same institutional context with ample access to common information and funding opportunities.

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