Expanding horizons: The impact of post-doctoral mobility grants on research diversification

Yağmur Yıldız, Diego Chavarro, Fabiana Visentin & Tommaso Ciarli


This paper studies whether receiving a post-doctoral mobility grant drives early career researchers to expand the scope of their research by diversifying into new topics. We use data on Marie Sk?odowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowships (MSCA-IF) funded under Horizon 2020 and implement a Regression Discontinuity Design to provide causal evidence. Our results indicate that being awarded MSCA-IF has a positive impact on expanding the breadth of the research portfolio. Funded applicants increase the share of publications with new topics compared to those who are not funded, but only in the years closest to receiving the grant. The results suggest that funded applicants are able to increase their portfolio of research topics more quickly than similar non-funded early career researchers. MSCA-IF speeds up the process of exercising cognitive exploration and intellectual growth, suggesting that they accelerate the process of expanding the scope of research. Our findings contribute to the debate on the role of public funding in shaping research trajectories, fostering intellectual development, and promoting career progress. Policymakers and organizations supporting early career researchers through post-doctoral mobility grants can benefit from these insights to enhance the effectiveness of such programs.

JEL Classification: I23, O31, 038

Keywords: intellectual growth; diversification; research breadth; research trajectories; science funding

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