Institute for Research on Labor and Employment
The Impact of Information Technology on Scientists’ Productivity, Quality and Collaboration Patterns
- Author(s): Ding, Waverly W.
- Levin, Sharon G.
- Stephan, Paula E.
- Winkler, Ann E.
- et al.
This study advances the prior literature concerning the impact of information technology on productivity in academe in two important ways. First, it utilizes a dataset that combines information on the diffusion of two noteworthy and early innovations in IT -- BITNET and the Domain Name System (DNS) -- with career history data on research-active life scientists. This research design allows for proper identification of the availability of access to IT as well as a means to directly identify causal effects. Second, the fine-grained nature of the data set allows for an investigation of three publishing outcomes: counts, quality, and co-authorship. Our analysis of a random sample of 3,771 research-active life scientists from 430 U.S. institutions over a 25-year period supports the hypothesis of a differential return to IT across subgroups of the scientific labor force. Women scientists, early-to-mid-career scientists, and those employed by mid-to-lower-tier institutions benefit from access to IT in terms of overall research output and an increase in the number of new co-authors they work with. Early-career scientists and those in top-tier institutions gain in terms of research quality when IT becomes available at their campuses.