Searching for Superstars: Research Risk and Talent Discovery in Astronomy
What is the role of luck in the careers of scientists? Since the production of science is inherently risky, the allocation of resources, promotions, and publications may be based on noisy signals of ability. Therefore, success might be path dependent, such that lucky breaks early in the career are amplified into future recognition and opportunities. I seek to quantify the short- and long- run effects of exogenous project success and failure in the context of academic astronomy. Using weather conditions during telescope viewing sessions, I test whether project-level shocks have a lasting effect on publication and citation rates. I find that idiosyncratic weather quality increases publication and citation rates for novice astronomers, but does not affect the productivity of veteran astronomers. Good weather shocks increase the number of future telescope sessions novices are awarded, suggesting that lucky breaks may improve early-career opportunities. However, these positive effects on productivity are transient, lasting about four years before diminishing. Receiving a good weather shock has no detectable effect on long-run productivity or the probability of staying in academia.
Hill, Ryan. 2019. Searching for Superstars: Research Risk and Talent Discovery in Astronomy.LINK