Carnegie Mellon University
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Navel gazing: Academic inbreeding and scientific productivity

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journal contribution
posted on 2007-01-01, 00:00 authored by Hugo Horta, Francisco Veloso, Rocio Grediaga
The practice of having PhDs employed by the university that trained them, commonly called "academic inbreeding" has long been assumed to have a damaging effect on scholarly practices and achievement. Despite this perception, existing work on academic inbreeding is scarce and mostly descriptive or speculative. In this research we show, first, that academic inbreeding can be damaging to scholarly output. Our estimates suggest that academically inbred faculty generate on average 15% less peer reviewed publications than their non-inbred counterparts. Second, academically inbred faculty are more centered in their own institution and less open to the rest of the scientific world. In particular, we estimate that they are about 40% less likely to exchange information of critical relevance to their scholarly work with external colleagues. Third, academic inbreeding appears to be detrimental to scientific output even in leading research universities. Overall, our analysis implies that administrators and policy makers aiming to develop a thriving research environment in universities should seriously consider mechanisms to limit this practice. It also explores the role, importance and mechanisms by which outsiders contribute to create a dynamic and creative environment in knowledge intensive settings.




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