Large Teams Have Developed Science and Technology; Small Teams Have Disrupted It

53 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2017

See all articles by Lingfei Wu

Lingfei Wu

computation institute

Dashun Wang

Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO)

James A. Evans

University of Chicago - Department of Sociology

Date Written: September 8, 2017

Abstract

Teams dominate the production of high-impact science and technology.

Analyzing teamwork from more than 50 million papers, patents, and software products, 1954-2014, we demonstrate across this period that larger teams developed recent, popular ideas, while small teams disrupted the system by drawing on older and less prevalent ideas. Attention to work from large teams came immediately, while advances by small teams succeeded further into the future. Differences between small and large teams magnify with impact—small teams have become known for disruptive work and large teams for developing work. Differences in topic and research design account for part of the relationship between team size and disruption, but most of the effect occurs within people, controlling for detailed subject and article type. Our findings suggest the importance of supporting both small and large teams for the sustainable vitality of science and technology.

Keywords: team science, science of science, innovation, organization, disruption, knowledge production, citation networks

Suggested Citation

Wu, Lingfei and Wang, Dashun and Evans, James A., Large Teams Have Developed Science and Technology; Small Teams Have Disrupted It (September 8, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3034125 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3034125

Lingfei Wu (Contact Author)

computation institute ( email )

Chicago, IL
United States

Dashun Wang

Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO) ( email )

Chambers Hall
600 Foster Street
Evanston, IL 60208-4057
United States

James A. Evans

University of Chicago - Department of Sociology ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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