Ep. 28: The Pros and Cons of Collaboration

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There was a time not long ago when most economists tended to work by themselves.

In 1960, fewer than one in five economics journal articles had more than one author. Today, about three quarters of all papers are produced by research teams.

The shift toward collaboration has a lot of upsides for economists, including producing higher impact papers, sharing the division of labor, and enjoying creative partnerships.

Northwestern University economist Benjamin Jones says that there are some downsides too. In a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Jones says that the rise of teams has made it more difficult to identify individual contributions. This can muddy tenure decisions, hinder grant funding opportunities, and even expand inequality in the field at a time when economics is trying to boost representation of women and minorities.

Jones spoke with the AEA’s Chris Fleisher about the rise of research teams, the pros and cons of collaboration, and a few reforms that could help ensure coauthors are getting fair treatment.

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