Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2012

Colocation and Scientific Collaboration: Evidence from a Field Experiment

by Kevin Boudreau, Tom Brady, Ina Ganguli, Patrick Gaule, Eva Guinan, Karim Lakhani and Tony Hollenberg


We present the results of a field experiment conducted within the Harvard Medical School system of hospitals and research centers to understand how colocation impacts the likelihood of scientific collaboration. We introduce exogenous colocation and face-to-face interactions for a random subset of biomedical researchers responding to an opportunity to apply for a research grant. While the overall baseline likelihood of any two researchers collaborating is small, we find that random colocation significantly increases the likelihood of pair-level co-application by almost 70%. The effect of exogenous colocation on subsequent collaboration was greater for previous coauthors, pairs including a woman, and pairs researching similar clinical areas. Our results suggest that matching between scientists may be subject to considerable frictions—even among those in relatively close geographic proximity and in the same organizational system. At the same time, even a brief and focused intervention facilitating face-to-face interactions can provide information that impacts the formation of scientific collaborations.

Keywords: Geographic Location; Competition; Groups and Teams; Health Care and Treatment; Research and Development; Collaborative Innovation and Invention; Health Industry; Massachusetts;


Boudreau, Kevin, Tom Brady, Ina Ganguli, Patrick Gaule, Eva Guinan, Karim Lakhani, and Tony Hollenberg. "Colocation and Scientific Collaboration: Evidence from a Field Experiment." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-023, August 2012. (Revised September 2012.)