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Journal Article

Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?


Fons-Rosen,  Christian
MPI for Innovation and Competition, Max Planck Society;

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Azoulay, P., Fons-Rosen, C., & Graff Zivin, J. (2019). Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time? The American Economic Review, 109(8), 2889-2920. doi:10.1257/aer.20161574.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-5625-1
We examine how the premature death of eminent life scientists alters the vitality of their fields. While the flow of articles by collaborators into affected fields decreases after the death of a star scientist, the flow of articles by non-collaborators increases markedly. This surge in contributions from outsiders draws upon a different scientific corpus and is disproportionately likely to be highly cited. While outsiders appear reluctant to challenge leadership within a field when the star is alive, the loss of a luminary provides an opportunity for fields to evolve in new directions that advance the frontier of knowledge.