Standing on the shoulders of giants : how star scientists influence their co-authors

Betancourt, Nathan, Jochem, Torsten and Otner, Sarah M. G. (2022) Standing on the shoulders of giants : how star scientists influence their co-authors. Research Policy, 52(1), p. 104624. ISSN (print) 0048-7333


We examine whether and when star scientist collaborations produce indirect peer effects. We theorize that a star's social status causes a collaboration to act as a prism; it reduces quality uncertainty, leading to increased recognition of coauthors' ideas. We identify two moderators of prisms, other scientists' quality uncertainty and awareness of the collaboration, and link prisms to "sleeping beauties", articles that are initially overlooked and then rediscovered later. Empirically, we examine the effect on citations of collaborating with a star who either won, or { serving as the control group { who was nominated for but did not win, the Nobel Prize in Physics. We find that articles by the winners' coauthors (and which were published prior to the focal coauthor's first collaboration with the winner) receive a citation boost after the Nobel Prize is awarded, relative to articles by the coauthors of nominees, and that awareness and quality un- certainty moderate this effect. We further find that this difference in citations causes sleeping beauties written by the coauthors of Nobel Prize winners to be rediscovered faster. Our results clarify how star scientists' indirect peer effects impact their coauthors and, through sleeping beauties, how prisms matter for science more broadly.

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