Automation, Research Technology and Researchers’ Trajectories: Evidence from Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

HBS Cotting House Conference Room

Abstract: We examine how an increase in the availability of IT-based research technology influences the production of research ideas and the mobility of research in the ideas space. To do this, we leverage the unanticipated and substantial expansion in access to motion-sensing research technology that occurred as the consequence of the introduction and subsequent hacking of the Microsoft Kinect system. To estimate whether this technology induces mobility in ideas production, we employ novel measures based on machine learning (topic modeling) techniques as well as traditional measures based on bibliometric indicators. Our analysis demonstrates that the Kinect shock increased the production of ideas and induced researchers to pursue ideas more distant to their original trajectories. We find that this holds for both incumbents and entrants in motion-sensing research, with stronger effects among entrants. Importantly, the boost in entrants’ ideas mobility extends to projects outside of motion sensing, suggesting that the automation of research tasks can act as a conduit towards unexplored knowledge trajectories. Co-authored with Florenta Teodoridis, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California (USC). Paper abstract available here.

A buffet lunch will be available at 11:45 a.m. The talk will begin at 12:00 p.m.

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