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Looking Across and Looking Beyond the Knowledge Frontier: Intellectual Distance and Resource Allocation in Science

40 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2014 Last revised: 25 Mar 2016

Kevin Boudreau

Northeastern University - Innovation & Entrepreneurship; Dept. of Economics; College of Computer & Information Sciences; Harvard University - Institute for Quantitative Social Science; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Eva Guinan

Harvard Medical School; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Karim R. Lakhani

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group; Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Christoph Riedl

Northeastern University - D’Amore-McKim School of Business; Northeastern University - College of Computer and Information Science; Harvard University - Institute for Quantitative Social Science

Date Written: August 11, 2014

Abstract

Selecting among alternative projects is a core management task in all innovating organizations. In this paper, we focus on the evaluation of frontier scientific research projects. We argue that the intellectual distance between the knowledge embodied in research proposals and an evaluator's own expertise systematically relates to the evaluations given. To estimate relationships, we designed and executed a grant proposal process at a leading research university in which we randomized the assignment of evaluators and proposals to generate 2,130 evaluator-proposal pairs. We find that evaluators systematically give lower scores to research proposals that are closer to their own areas of expertise and to those that are highly novel. The patterns are consistent with biases associated with boundedly rational evaluation of new ideas. The patterns are inconsistent with intellectual distance simply contributing “noise” or being associated with private interests of evaluators. We discuss implications for policy, managerial intervention and allocation of resources in the ongoing accumulation of scientific knowledge.

Keywords: knowledge, innovation, novelty, evaluation, resource allocation

JEL Classification: D7, D8, D01, C93, O3

Suggested Citation

Boudreau, Kevin and Guinan, Eva and Lakhani, Karim R. and Riedl, Christoph, Looking Across and Looking Beyond the Knowledge Frontier: Intellectual Distance and Resource Allocation in Science (August 11, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2478627

Kevin Boudreau (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - Innovation & Entrepreneurship; Dept. of Economics; College of Computer & Information Sciences ( email )

Harvard University - Institute for Quantitative Social Science ( email )

1737 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Eva Guinan

Harvard Medical School ( email )

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
450 Brookline Avenue, Suite M1B29
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-632-4932 (Phone)
617-632-3770 (Fax)

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute ( email )

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
450 Brookline Avenue, Suite M1B29
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-632-4932 (Phone)
617-632-3770 (Fax)

Karim R. Lakhani

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6741 (Phone)

Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science ( email )

1737 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Christoph Riedl

Northeastern University - D’Amore-McKim School of Business ( email )

360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.christophriedl.net

Northeastern University - College of Computer and Information Science ( email )

360 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Harvard University - Institute for Quantitative Social Science ( email )

1737 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://christophriedl.net

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