Productivity, prominence, and the effects of academic environment

Past studies have shown that faculty at prestigious universities tend to be more productive and prominent than faculty at less prestigious universities. This pattern is usually attributed to a competitive job market that selects inherently productive faculty into prestigious positions. Here, we test the extent to which, instead, faculty’s work environments drive their productivity. Using comprehensive data on an entire field of research, we use a matched-pair experimental design to isolate the effects of training at, versus working in, prestigious environments. We find that faculty’s work environments, not selection effects, drive their productivity and prominence, establishing that where a researcher works serves as a mechanism for cumulative advantage, locking in past success via job placement and thereby facilitating future success.

Productivity, prominence, and the effects of academic environment

Samuel F. Way, Allison C. Morgan, Daniel B. Larremore, and Aaron Clauset