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Persistence and Uncertainty in the Academic Career

Petersen, Alexander M. and Riccaboni, Massimo and Stanley, H. Eugene and Pammolli, Fabio Persistence and Uncertainty in the Academic Career. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ISSN 1091-6490 (2012)

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Recent shifts in the business structure of universities and a bottleneck in the supply of tenure track positions are two issues that threaten to change the longstanding patronage system in academia. Understanding how institutional changes within academia may affect the overall potential of science requires a better quantitative understanding of how careers evolve over time. Since knowledge spillovers, cumulative advantage, and collaboration are distinctive features of the academic profession, the employment relationship should be designed to account for these factors. We quantify the impact of these factors in the production n_i(t) of a given scientist i by analyzing the longitudinal career data of 300 scientists and compare our results with 21,156 sports careers comprising a non-academic labor force. The increase in the typical size of scientific collaborations has led to the increasingly difficult task of allocating funding and assigning recognition. We use measures of the scientific collaboration radius, which can change dramatically over the course of a career, to provide insight into the role of collaboration in production efficiency. We introduce a model of proportional growth to provide insight into the complex relation between knowledge spillovers, competition, and uncertainty at the individual scale. Our model shows that high competition levels can make careers vulnerable to “sudden death” termination relatively early in the career as a result of negative production fluctuations and not necessarily due to lack of individual persistence.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: 10.1073/pnas.1121429109
Additional Information: Published online before print March 19,2012
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Q Science > QC Physics
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
Research Area: Economics and Institutional Change
Depositing User: Alexander Petersen
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2012 09:35
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2013 08:34
URI: http://eprints.imtlucca.it/id/eprint/1053

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