Do academics swing for the fences after tenure? Analysis of attributions data from economics research

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Attribution, High-impact academic research, Research effort, Scholarly critique


© 2018, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary. Recent research by Brogaard et al. (J Econ Perspect 32:179–194, 2018) explores whether or not the receipt of tenure gives academics the employment protection necessary to induce them to attempt more ground-breaking or “home run” research. They discover that the number of home run publications, defined as those that are among the top 10 percent most cited of all papers published in a given year, peaks in the year of tenure for economists, and falls thereafter, thus supporting the notion that a reduction in risk-taking on the part of academic researchers appears to have occurred in recent decades. This study explores a possible alternative explanation for the prior findings that involves the exertion of research production “effort” by way of the ex ante supply of critiques of a manuscript by informal commenters. This represents an author-supplied input or effort in the production process that is related to quality control, and that can be captured through the information provided in the acknowledgement footnote of a published study. The data examined in this study suggest that if academics make an adjustment on this margin of effort during the course of an academic career, it is to increase research effort in an attempt to produce truly ground-breaking, home run research.

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