The Anatomy of Teams: Division of Labor and Allocation of Credit in Collaborative Knowledge Production
Posted: 9 May 2014
Date Written: May 7, 2014
An increasing amount of knowledge is produced in teams rather than by individuals, an effect that is often attributed to benefits from division of labor. However, there is little empirical evidence regarding whether and how functional activities are divided between team members, which individuals perform which activities, and how member contributions are rewarded with credit for the overall outcome. We fill this gap using novel data on all authors who contributed to over 13,000 scientific articles. Consistent with prior theories, we find that division of labor increases with team size, although this effect is nonlinear and indeed reverses for larger teams. Moreover, we find that division of labor is stronger with respect to some functional activities than others, consistent with differences in the benefits from specialization and the interdependencies between activities. Highly accomplished researchers tend to perform different activities than junior members, likely reflecting comparative advantages and differences in opportunity costs. Finally, we show how different levels and types of contributions are related to different authorship positions and to the designation as corresponding author, providing insights into the value teams assign to different contributions. We consider implications for future research as well as practical implications for scientists and public policy.
Keywords: Team Production, Knowledge Work, Collaboration, Division of Labor, Scientific Credit
JEL Classification: O31, M54
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation