Science and the Diffusion of Knowledge

39 Pages Posted: 25 May 2001

See all articles by Olav Sorenson

Olav Sorenson

Yale School of Management

Lee Fleming

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 24, 2001


Scientists, social scientists and politicians frequently credit basic science with stimulating technological innovation, and with it economic growth. To support this idea, researchers have shown that patents based on university research receive more citations - a measure of patent importance - than those developed outside of academia. That research and much of the rhetoric it supports implicitly assumes that the application of scientific methods enables the invention of higher quality technologies. Nevertheless, another possibility exists. The norm of "communism" and the related practice of publication may speed the diffusion of information developed in the scientific community. By examining patent data, this paper seeks to determine to what extent do quality differences versus communication explain the citation premium accorded to university and science-based patents. The analyses suggest that heightened communication explains a substantial amount of the difference, a result with important implications for both future research and public policy.

Keywords: science, technological innovation, patents, diffusion

JEL Classification: O31, R1, Z13

Suggested Citation

Sorenson, Olav and Fleming, Lee, Science and the Diffusion of Knowledge (May 24, 2001). Available at SSRN: or

Olav Sorenson (Contact Author)

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

Lee Fleming

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617 495 6613 (Phone)
617 496 5265 (Fax)

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