Job market papers

Scientific Talent Leaks Out of Funding Gaps (submitted)

Presented at NBER Summer Institute 2022 (Innovation)

Coverage: Marginal Revolution, Good Science Project

with Joseph Staudt, Elisabeth Perlman, Stephanie Cheng

We study how an interruption in the flow of research funding to a major NIH grant — the R01 — affects the career outcomes of research personnel using comprehensive wage and tax records that have been linked to university transaction data. Using a difference- in-differences design, we find that for employees who work for labs with only one R01, an interruption of more than 30 days has a substantial effect on job placement, including a 2.5 pp increase in the probability of no longer earning US income. Half of this affect is explained by absence from the 2020 Decennial Census, suggesting that they have permanently left the US. Among employees who continue to earn US income, we also find that interrupted employees earn 20% less than uninterrupted employees. The effects are strongest among those least attached to their university: trainees (postdocs and graduate students) are the most likely to leave the US, and lab staff see the largest wage impact.

Money, Time, and Grant Design (submitted)

Presented at NBER Summer Institute 2023 (Science of Science Funding)

Coverage: Nature

with Kyle Myers

The design of research grants has been hypothesized to be a useful tool for influencing researchers and their science. To better understand the value of grant design as a policy instrument, we conduct two sets of thought experiments in a nationally representative survey of academic researchers. First, we test whether grants with randomized attributes induce different research strategies. Longer grants increase researchers’ willingness to take risks, but only among tenured professors, suggesting that job security and grant duration are complements. Larger grants increase researchers’ willingness to expand ongoing projects, while smaller grants increase researchers’ focus on starting new projects in new directions, the opposite of what conventional theory would suggest. Both longer and larger grants reduce researchers’ focus on speed, which suggests a significant amount of racing in science is in pursuit of resources. In our second experiment, we find that researchers are relatively unwilling to trade off the amount of funding a grant provides in order to extend the duration of the grant — more money is much more valuable than more time. Our results have implications for organizations that fund science and uncover new characteristics of scientific production functions.


Science, Interrupted: Funding delays reduce research activity but having more grants helps

PLOS ONE, 2023

Unequal Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Scientists

with Kyle Myers, Yian Yin, Nina Cohodes, Jerry Thursby, Marie Thursby, Peter Schiffer, Joseph Walsh, Karim Lakhani, and Dashun Wang

Nature Human Behaviour, 2020

Working Papers

New Facts and Data about Professors and their Research

Coverage: Nature

Work in Progress

Productivity Beliefs and Efficiency in Science

with Fabio Bertolotti and Kyle Myers

Scientific Production Function

with Jeff Qiu and Bruce Weinberg

The Effect of Targeted Increases in Science Funding: Stem Cell Research in California

with Joseph Staudt

The Effect of Temporary Colocation on Knowledge Flows

I study the effect of short-term, repeated interactions on knowledge flows using the setting of NIH “study sections”, which are panels of grant reviewers. Using variation in how much reviewers’ terms overlap, I find that the longer scientists serve together on the same panel, the more likely they are to cite each other up to 10 years after initial co-location.