Research and teaching

Science, social networks and spillovers

August 7th, 2009 | Posted by admin in 2007 - (0 Comments)

Olav Sorenson and Jasjit Singh

Although prior empirical research has established an association between science and the widespread diffusion of knowledge, the exact mechanism(s) through which science catalyses information flow remains somewhat ambiguous. This paper investigates whether the knowledge diffusion associated with science-based innovation stems from the norm of openness and incentives for publication, or whether scientists maintain more extensive and dispersed social networks that facilitate the dissemination of tacit knowledge. Our analysis supports the first mechanism: we track the movement of knowledge with patent citations, and find that science-based innovations diffuse more rapidly and widely, even after controlling for the underlying social networks of researchers as measured using information on prior collaborations. We also find that publication and social networks act as substitutes in the diffusion of knowledge.

Industry and Innovation, 14 (2007): 219-238

Complexity, networks and knowledge flow

August 7th, 2009 | Posted by admin in 2006 - (0 Comments)

Olav Sorenson, Jan W. Rivkin, and Lee Fleming

Because knowledge plays an important role in the creation of wealth, economic actors often wish to skew the flow of knowledge in their favor. We ask, when will an actor socially close to the source of some knowledge have the greatest advantage over distant actors in receiving and building on the knowledge? Marrying a social network perspective with a view of knowledge transfer as a search process, we argue that the value of social proximity to the knowledge source depends crucially on the nature of the knowledge at hand. Simple knowledge diffuses equally to close and distant actors because distant recipients with poor connections to the source of the knowledge can compensate for their limited access by means of unaided local search. Complex knowledge resists diffusion even within the social circles in which it originated. With knowledge of moderate complexity, however, high-fidelity transmission along social networks combined with local search allows socially proximate recipients to receive and extend knowledge generated elsewhere, while interdependencies stymie more distant recipients who rely heavily on unaided search. To test this hypothesis, we examine patent data and compare citation rates across proximate and distant actors on three dimensions: (1) the inventor collaboration network; (2) firm membership; and (3) geography. We find robust support for the proposition that socially proximate actors have the greatest advantage over distant actors for knowledge of moderate complexity. We discuss the implications of our findings for the distribution of intra-industry profits, the geographic agglomeration of industries, the design of social networks within firms, and the modularization of technologies.

Research Policy, 35 (2006): 994-1017

Science and the diffusion of knowledge

August 7th, 2009 | Posted by admin in 2004 - (0 Comments)

Olav Sorenson and Lee Fleming

Scientists, social scientists and politicians frequently credit basic science with stimulating technological innovation, and with it economic growth. Despite a substantial body of research investigating this general relationship, relatively little empirical attention has been given to understanding the mechanisms that might generate this linkage. This paper considers whether more rapid diffusion of knowledge, brought about by the norm of publication, might account for part of this effect. We identify the importance of publication by comparing the patterns of citations from future patents to three groups of focal patents: (i) those that reference scientific (peer-reviewed) publications, (ii) those that reference commercial (non-scientific) publications; and (iii) those that reference neither. Our analyses strongly implicate publication as an important mechanism for accelerating the rate of technological innovation: Patents that reference published material, whether peer-reviewed or not, receive more citations, primarily because their influence diffuses faster in time and space.

Research Policy, 33 (2004): 1615-1634