Research Seminar: Author Location & Attention on Open Science Platforms / Evidence from COVID-19 Preprints


Monday, January 23, 2023, 10:15am to 11:30am


Belfer L1 Weil Town Hall, HKS / Zoom (registration information below)

The Growth Lab Research Seminar series is a weekly seminar that brings together researchers from across the academic spectrum who share an interest in growth and development.

Speaker: Megan MacGarvie,  Associate Professor, Boston University/Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research

Abstract: Online platforms such as preprint servers have become an important way to disseminate new scientific knowledge prior to peer review. However, little is known about how attention to preprints may vary across authors from different locations, particularly relative to evaluation in expert-controlled systems such as scientific journals. This study explores how readers allocated attention across preprints in the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when there was an increase in demand for new research and a corresponding increase in the use of preprint platforms around the world. We find that, after controlling carefully for article quality and topic as well as the prominence of the preprint’s ultimate publication outlet, preprints with authors from Chinese institutions receive less attention, and preprints with authors from US institutions receive more attention, than preprints with authors from the rest of the world. In an exploration of potential mechanisms driving the observed effects, we find evidence that when evaluation is more constrained, in terms of lack of knowledge or expertise and increase in time pressure, audiences tend to make greater use of preprint authors’ country as a proxy for quality or relevance. The results suggest that geographic biases may persist or even be exacerbated on platforms designed to promote unfettered access to early research findings.

Whether attending in-person or virtually, please register in advance. Room attendance is limited to the Harvard community. Seating availability is based on a first-come, first-served basis. The Zoom webinar is open to the public.

About the Speaker: Megan MacGarvie is Associate Professor in the department of Markets, Public Policy and Law at the Questrom School of Business at Boston University, and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA. Her research focuses on the economics of innovation and intellectual property. Recent work has analyzed the impact of international mobility of US-trained STEM doctoral recipients on research productivity, collaboration, and knowledge diffusion; entrepreneurship and innovation among foreign-born STEM doctoral recipients and post-docs; and the impact of US immigration policy on the return migration choices of foreign-born scientists in the U.S.