My research focuses on the role of institutional factors and international networks in knowledge production in the context of science, innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging economies. I am particularly interested in how strategies to form cross-country ties can offset limited institutions and affect innovative performance in sub-Saharan Africa.
Abstract: Despite significant interest in the potential for `returnee’ scientists moving back to developing countries to connect developed and developing countries, prior work has found limited evidence of success. I shift the focus to the broader network of the returnee, and study the extent to which the return home of American-trained HIV researchers to African institutions impacts publication outcomes of non-migrant scientists in Africa. I find that following the arrival of a returnee in their institution, non-migrants experience increased productivity, mostly in HIV research. I find strong evidence that the mechanism driving this effect is that of the returnee providing a bridge to their central connections and subsequent knowledge and resources thus affecting outcomes. In settings where `outsiders’ struggle to access knowledge and resources that are usually reserved for exclusive `insiders’, this kind of bridge in the network can help through providing legitimacy to the outsiders. These findings inform a network perspective on the consequences of the mobility of skilled individuals, the development of national innovation ecosystems, and the globalization of knowledge production.
‘Never Let a Good Crisis Go To Waste’: The impact of the 2014 ebola epidemic on West African science
Abstract: Relationships with more prominent affiliates can be crucial to the success of a scientist’s career. In practice, relationships with those more elite are limited to high achieving or high potential scientists, making their value very hard to measure. The 2014 West African ebola epidemic afforded scientists working in endemic countries an unexpected opportunity to build relationships with more prominent affiliates from around the globe. Using a matched sample of scientists from non- endemic countries I estimate the effect of the ebola epidemic on international collaborations and publication rates of endemic country scientists. I find evidence of a persistent post-epidemic boost in international collaborations and increases in publication rates. However, these results are only found for those endemic country scientists who were already well connected with international scientists and working in similar disease areas prior to the epidemic. This rare causal evidence highlights the importance of opportunities to build relationships with more prominent affiliates, but at the same time raise concerns over the potential implications of global networks on inequality within groups of scientists outside the exclusive elite.
International Spillovers, Cross-Country Teams and Scientific Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa
Abstract: This paper enhances our understanding of the ideas production function for developing economies. It does so by considering international knowledge spillovers, accessed through international team-work, as a core determinant of technological catch-up. Using data of sub-Saharan African countries’ scientific output between 1976 and 2016, I provide evidence for three main findings. First, the level of production of scientific output increases with the stock of ideas already discovered in a given country, as well as the level of human capital devoted to the scientific sector. Second, the level of production of scientific output is declining in the worldwide stock of ideas. That being said, the level of production of scientific output of African countries increases with the stock of ideas discovered in the ex-colonial power, as well as the levels of R&D funding of the ex-colonial power. This relationship is growing stronger over time. Third, the rate of collaboration between African and international scientists, particularly ex-colonial country scientists, is increasing over time. However, once this calendar trend is accounted for, international collaborations are more common for countries further behind the frontier. In an attempt to reconcile the findings, I find that international spillovers from a frontier country are correlated with the proportion of the scientific workforce that is involved in team-work with that country, and I hypothesize that international team-work is a determinant of international knowledge spillovers and subsequent technological catch-up, particularly at earlier stages of development and for smaller countries. These exercises suggest that efforts targeting improving access to international knowledge, particularly through cross-country team-work, can be as important as domestic policies and programs for countries behind the global frontier.
‘If You Build it They Will Run’: The role of clinical trial infrastructure on neglected disease R&D
Abstract: I investigate the role of country level clinical trial infrastructure on research and development (R&D) levels for neglected tropical diseases concentrated in those countries. Pre-existing clinical trial infrastructure in a location can affect the cost and time of clinical trials carried out there, thus influence returns on investments for diseases that are located in different places. Using a newly constructed dataset I assess the components that make up a country’s clinical trial infrastructure, which varies for countries in different stages of development. Using data on neglected tropical disease global disease burdens and research levels, I find that the level of R&D into diseases concentrated in countries with worse clinical trial infrastructure is lower than that for diseases concentrated in countries with better infrastructure. This paper suggests a need for further work into the role of research infrastructure in developing countries and its role on innovation outcomes for issues affecting the world’s poorest countries.
Research in Progress
Information and Career Aspirations: Field Experimental Evidence [with Wendy Bradley and Ethan Poskanzer]
Within Region Scientist Mobility: The impact of cross-regional fellowships for developing country scientists [with Jeff Furman]
Perceptions of Returns to Entrepreneurship in Sierra Leone [with Wendy Bradley]
How Can Outsiders Leverage Their Network to Get Ahead? Evidence from African HIV Scientists [with Carolyn Fu]