Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Clustering Effects

Here's my question. Suppose we plant identical professors of economics in different locales. One, in the middle of the Harvard-MIT-NBER triangle. The second, alone in a mansion with internet access and the world's greatest economics library on the edge of the Great Bear Lake.

I've heard conspiracy theories that getting published is all about the pedigree of your Ph.D. and your current affliation. Neglecting this (as I really hope it isn't true), what's the benefit of being surrounded by amiable professional relations?

This worries me, as I (eventually?) want to return to Newfoundland. How can we go about judging these worries? I've never been much for co-authoring, but I can imagine the benefit from daily conversation with people pushing the edges of their field. Good research ideas have to come from somewhere.

Stanford has conveniently posted several bountiful crops of honours essays. Some of these documents compare very favourably with my own (still under construction). Admittedly, the variance is large. If we controlled for Stanford pushing their students more than MUN, the fact that Stanford allocates a longer period of time to these projects, different goals of the projects, etc, etc, and left only the environment (and maybe advisors?), would there still be a large gap in quality?

I'd say that it would close, but not converge, and is likely more pronounced for faculty than students. Either way, something I've thought about.

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