Is academic science trapped inside the Ivory Tower? Universities and the diffusion of new knowledge

Bikard, M (2012) Is academic science trapped inside the Ivory Tower? Universities and the diffusion of new knowledge. [Conference proceeding]


The idea of the “ivory tower” refers to the widely observed phenomenon that knowledge produced in academia has little immediate impact on the economy. A debate opposes those who believe that this results from the more fundamental aspect of academic research and those who argue that specific elements of the university environment hinder the dissemination of science. This paper advances the debate by focusing on simultaneous discoveries. When two teams of scientists make the same discovery around the same time, two papers can be published disclosing essentially the same new knowledge. I exploit the fact that some of these “paper twins” emerge on both sides of the academia-industry boundary. The knowledge associated with the discovery can therefore diffuse simultaneously within the two distinct institutional environments. Analysis of 720 paper twins, 49 of them located across the university-industry boundary, confirms that discoveries made in academia have a lower technological impact as measured through the citation-weighted count of patents referring to university papers. In line with the argument that academic knowledge is trapped inside the ivory tower, this difference remains significant after the introduction of discovery-level fixed-effects. Interestingly, the patents citing the industry paper are of higher impact than the patents citing its twin from academia.

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Item Type: Conference proceeding
Subject Areas: Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Date Deposited: 16 May 2016 13:25
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2021 15:45

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