Bridging the Gap: Evidence from the Return Migration of African Scientists
55 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2022
Date Written: September 14, 2022
Although prior research has highlighted the benefits that accrue to brokers in innovation networks, there is much less attention devoted to understanding who benefits from associating with a broker. This study focuses on the impact of associating with a specific kind of broker - a core/periphery bridge - i.e. one that spans central and peripheral actors. I argue that actors associated with a core/periphery bridge benefit more when they have no central connection, or are `outsiders' in the network, due to their greater need for sponsorship from the broker. I explore this idea in the context of the return migration of American-trained scientists to African institutions, who span the core and the periphery of the global scientific network. I evaluate the impact of their return on the publication outcomes of non-migrant scientists based in African institutions and find that following the arrival of a returnee in their institution, the non-migrants who are not already connected to scientists in top global institutions have a greater publication output through improved access to central knowledge and connections. The findings contribute to a better understanding of how brokers can influence innovation systems more broadly.
Keywords: Social network, inequality, economics of science, international migration, knowledge spillovers, global innovation, economics of innovation, Africa
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