Research independence: Drivers and impact on PhD students’ careers

Michele Pezzoni, Université Côte d’Azur

Early-career scientists are often asked to prove their research independence when applying for academic positions or grants. However, only a few large-scale empirical studies investigate the factors leading to research independence and the link between research independence and academic success. Drawing upon unique data on the entire population of French STEM PhD students who graduated between 2004 and 2013, we explore the factors leading PhDs to pursue independent research from their supervisors during their PhD training period, and how independence links to their future career outcomes. Using an advanced neural network algorithm, we measure independence as the content dissimilarity between PhD student thesis and supervisor’s publications content. We find that independence is significantly associated with student’s characteristics such as gender, age, nationality, and supervisor’s academic profile. We also find that student’s independence predicts the probability of starting an academic career and, conditional on starting an academic career, a higher number of articles published during the 5 years after graduation. However, the higher scientific productivity in terms of quantity comes at the cost of receiving fewer citations and having a lower probability of obtaining an academic position in a foreign country or the US.

About the speaker

Michele Pezzoni is currently associate professor at Université Côte d’Azur. His research interests lie in the micro-dynamics of knowledge production in science and technology. He is interested in the empirical analysis of the determinants of researchers' productivity, careers, teaching quality, and propensity to engage in technology transfer activities. He is also interested in investigating how novel technologies originate, diffuse, and shape industries. His work has been published in Research Policy, Industrial and Corporate Change, Journal of Evolutionary Economics, and others.

Date: 14 April 2022

Time: 12:00 - 13:00  CEST