Reputation Star Scientists And The Matthew Effect

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A number of works examine those individuals who display an extraordinary scientific output. Zucker and Darby (1996), term these individuals as 'star scientists' and have identified only 327 'stars' worldwide who have recorded more than 40 genetic-sequence discoveries or authored at least 20 articles reporting such discoveries by 1990. During the 1990s, sequence discovery had become routinized and was no longer such a useful measure of research success (Zucker et al. 1998).

These elite star scientists have an exceptional scientific output, whilst only consisting of 0.8 per cent of all GenBank scientists they accounted for

17.3 per cent of all articles listed in GenBank in 1990 (Zucker and Darby 1996) (GenBank is the US National Institute of Health's genetic sequence database, a collection of all publicly available DNA sequences). An article authored by one or more affiliated stars roughly doubles its citation rate (Zucker and Darby 1996). Star scientists demonstrate a number of differing characteristics to ordinary scientists beyond higher levels of publication. They often hold more patents (Zuckerman 1967) mentor fewer and brighter students, and are cited more regularly by other authors (Zucker and Darby 1996).

Merton's studies of Nobel Prize winners found that after these scientists were awarded their laureate status, their level of eminence did not fall much below that irrespective of the continuing quality of their work (Merton 1968). He argued that 'once a Nobel laureate, always a Nobel laureate' meant that co-authors were accredited with a disproportionately lower contribution to the findings. It was assumed that the star scientist was responsible for the majority of the work, if not for the source of the ideas, despite little evidence of any such suggestion. The subsequent result was that the coauthors received disproportionately lower credit for their contributions which led Merton to label this phenomenon the 'Matthew Effect' after the author of a similar biblical verse (Merton 1968).

The Matthew Effect has been affirmed by studies that indicate that the findings of eminent scientists are held to be more significant than that of lower status scientists despite the findings being the same (Foschi 1991). An example provided by Merton involves a paper that was originally rejected by a scientific journal. Once it was discovered that the editors had received a transcript that was accidentally missing Lord Rayleigh's name, the decision to reject the paper was reversed without its contents being altered (Merton 1968).

One of the premises of intellectual gravity is that the described Matthew Effect extends beyond the attribution of accolades. Although we support the observations made by Merton and others, as the Matthew Effect was first described during a period of limited academic entrepreneurship, it does not take into account the commercial influences on the reputation of academic scientists. Therefore it does not accurately describe the attractive forces and the manner in which reputation is accredited in twenty-first century biotechnology. Today, as scientists become more productive, their eminence grows and more colleagues seek to collaborate with them, increasing the sourcing of ideas. Furthermore, greater eminence through academic and commercial success attracts more funding, allowing for increased publication output and subsequently more recognition (Oliver 2004). These effects reinforce each other and snowball, resulting in a 'compounded' Matthew Effect (Van Looy et al. 2004).

Scientific Entrepreneurs and their Impact on Firms

The star scientists and laureates discussed are rarely entrepreneurs. Only 3 per cent of the stars identified worked in firms, the rest were located in academic or other not-for-profit institutions (Zucker et al. 1998). This does not mean that they were not involved in entrepreneurial activities as these rarely necessitate that they give up their academic tenures. To access a star's experience and know-how through their scientific and commercial networks, firms are willing to associate themselves with star scientists under favourable agreements (Murray 2004).

When a firm has a tie to a star scientist they will reach IPO (initial public offering) earlier and attain more funds from the float (Darby and Zucker 2002). When a star-linked firm goes public it has been shown that for each article written by a star, as or with a firm employee, additional funds of an average of $1.1 million are obtained (Darby and Zucker 2002). This is because financial investors base their decisions on the involvement of highreputation scientists who invest their intellectual capital into the firm (Catherine et al. 2004). The investment of a star's intellectual capital dramatically increases a firm's measured innovative output (Zucker et al. 2002). In measures of innovation, stars appear to be dramatically more productive than their non-star peers from even the most respected universities.

Star-firm associations are also highly beneficial for the scientist involved. When a US star is affiliated with both a firm and a patented discovery, they are cited over nine times as frequently as their pure academic peers who lack patents or commercial linkages (Zucker and Darby 1996). These ties are highly influential to the founding of firms, the number of stars and collaborators active through 1980 provides a strong indication of where the biotech enterprises were distributed in 1990 (Zucker et al. 1998). Furthermore, by 1985, nine of the ten largest (according to market cap) biotech firms had articles coauthored between stars and firms (Zucker and Darby 1998).

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