Expertise Diversity of Teams Predicts Originality and Long-Term Impact in Science and Technology

49 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2022

See all articles by Hongwei Zheng

Hongwei Zheng

Beijing Academy of Blockchain and Edge Computing

Weihua Li

Beihang University

Dashun Wang

Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO)

Date Written: October 10, 2022

Abstract

Despite the growing importance of teams in producing innovative and high-impact science and technology, it remains unclear how expertise diversity among team members relates to the originality and impact of the work they produce. Here, we develop a new method to quantify the expertise distance of researchers based on their prior career histories and apply it to 23 million scientific publications and 4 million patents. We find that across science and technology, expertise-diverse teams tend to produce work with greater originality. Teams with more diverse expertise have no significant impact advantage in the short- (2 years) or mid-term (5 years). Instead, they exhibit substantially higher long-term impact (10 years), increasingly attracting larger cross-disciplinary influence. This impact premium of expertise diversity among team members becomes especially pronounced when other dimensions of team diversity are missing, as teams within the same institution or country appear to disproportionately reap the benefits of expertise diversity. While gender-diverse teams have relatively higher impact on average, teams with varied levels of gender diversity all seem to benefit from increased expertise diversity. Given the growing knowledge demands on individual researchers, implementation of incentives for original research, and the tradeoffs between short-term and long-term impacts, these results may have implications for funding, assembling, and retaining teams with originality and long-lasting impacts.

Keywords: Science of science; Collaboration; Diversity

JEL Classification: O15

Suggested Citation

Zheng, Hongwei and Li, Weihua and Wang, Dashun, Expertise Diversity of Teams Predicts Originality and Long-Term Impact in Science and Technology (October 10, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4243054 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4243054

Hongwei Zheng

Beijing Academy of Blockchain and Edge Computing

Weihua Li (Contact Author)

Beihang University ( email )

Xueyuan Rd
Beijing, 100191
China

Dashun Wang

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

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

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