"Hubs as lampposts: Academic location and firms’ attention to science"
Only a small fraction of the myriad of academic papers published every year emerges from industry hubs, but firms pay disproportionately more attention to those papers. We examine this disparity and explore some of its causes. To do so, we analyze firms’ patent citations to over 10 million academic publications as well as to a set of 147 simultaneous discoveries from academia. Our results highlights two main explanations for hubs’ apparent “lamppost” effect. First, there are considerable differences in the nature of academic science produced inside and outside of hubs. Hub-based academic science is on average of higher quality but surprisingly only slightly more applied than academic science produced elsewhere. Second, and perhaps more importantly, firms face important constraints in allocating their limited attention to an academic literature that is vast, complex and often unreliable. They are likely to pay greater attention to hub-based academic science both because they expect it to be more useful on average, and because they are more likely to be exposed to it through the informal interactions that take place in hubs. Overall, our results suggest that hubs amplify the reach of local academic science. They are likely to drive non-localized knowledge flows by attracting the attention of firms located hundreds of miles away.
"A Collaborative Model for Creating Practically Relevant AND Theoretically Interesting Research" [Development seminar]
Despite an ongoing desire to build a meaningful bridge between academia and practice to solve social problems, both parties continue to struggle to find productive ways to collaborate. Academics are focused on publishing in top academic journals (which practitioners don't read) and contributing to theory (which seems overly abstract to practitioners). Practitioners are focused on 'big picture' issues (which aren't granular enough for academics to study) and figuring out what to do in the future (whereas academics often want to understand the past). The Social Innovation Research Lab has developed a collaborative research model that allows for a 'win-win' scenario. More specifically, the model uses a 'matching' approach to identifying a research question that is both theoretically interesting and practically relevant, and a mixed method approach for collecting data that combines qualitative interviews with the use of field experiments. This model has been used to conduct numerous research partnerships with social enterprises around the world that have not only resulted in top tier publications, but also in providing meaningful insight to practitioners as they attempt to continuously improve and innovate their organizational practices.