Skip to main content

Please enter a keyword and click the arrow to search the site

Explaining heterogeneity in the organization of scientific work


Organization Science


Strategy and Entrepreneurship

Authors / Editors

Vakili K;Rahmandad H


Publication Year



Prior studies of academic science have largely focused on researchers in life sciences or engineering. However, while academic researchers often work under similar institutions, norms, and incentives, they vary greatly in how they organize their research efforts across different scientific domains. This heterogeneity, in turn, has important implications for innovation policy, the relationship between industry and academia, the scientific labor market, and the perceived deficit in the relevance of social sciences and humanities research. To understand this heterogeneity, we model scientists as publication-maximizing agents, identifying two distinct organizational patterns that are optimal under different parameters. When the net productivity of research staff (e.g., PhD students and postdocs) is positive, the funded research model with an entrepreneurial scientist and a large team dominates. When the costs of research staff exceed their productivity benefits, the hands-on research approach is optimal. The model implies significant heterogeneity across the two modes of organizing in research funding, supply of scientific workforce, team size, publication output, and stratification patterns over time. Exploratory empirical analysis finds consistent patterns of time allocation and publication in a prior survey of faculty in U.S. universities. Using data from an original survey, we also find causal effects consistent with the model’s prediction on how negative shocks to research staff—due to visa or health problems, for example—differentially impact research output under the two modes of organization.


Scientific teams; Collaboration; Academic research; Science policy; Research relevance; Research funding; University industry relationship; Performance heterogeneity

Available on ECCH


Select up to 4 programmes to compare

Select one more to compare
subscribe_image_desktop 5949B9BFE33243D782D1C7A17E3345D0

Sign up to receive our latest news and business thinking direct to your inbox


Sign up to receive our latest course information and business thinking

Leave your details above if you would like to receive emails containing the latest thought leadership, invitations to events and news about courses that could enhance your career. If you would prefer not to receive our emails, you can still access the case study by clicking the button below. You can opt-out of receiving our emails at any time by visiting: or by unsubscribing through the link provided in our emails. View our Privacy Policy for more information on your rights.