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Science, social networks and spillovers

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Although prior empirical research has established that science appears to stimulate the widespread diffusion of knowledge, the exact mechanism through which science catalyzes knowledge flow remains somewhat ambiguous. This paper considers whether the observed knowledge diffusion associated with science-based innovation stems from the norm of openness and incentives for publication, or whether scientists maintain more dispersed social networks that facilitate the dissemination of tacit knowledge. Our analysis supports the former mechanism: We use patent citation patterns to track knowledge flows, and find that science-based innovations diffuse more widely even after controlling for the underlying social networks of researchers as measured using data on prior collaborations. We also find that publication and social networks act as substitutes in the diffusion of knowledge.

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