Current Projects

Evaluation of a mobility grant (in collaboration with Stefano Baruffaldi and Marianna Marino)
We study the effect of an international mobility grant program, by means of a Regression Discontinuity Design, using unique data from the Swiss national research funding agency. The grant effectively supports periods of research abroad that extend often beyond the duration of the grant, without turning into permanent migration. Awarded researchers increase their output quality, although the effect on output quantity and on careers is not significant. Additional evidence suggests that financially supporting mobility likely affect output quality by reducing the cost of exploration of new collaboration opportunities and research topics: awarded applicants collaborate more likely with new coauthors, on average of high scientific quality, and rely less on previous own research results. Moreover, the grants benefit mainly researchers receiving it for the first time. We discuss the implications of these results for the understanding of how mobility grants may alter knowledge production and for the design of similar programs.

Technological novel diffusion (in collaboration with Michele Pezzoni and Reinhilde Veugelers)
The project aims to investigate how novel technologies embodied in breakthrough inventions diffuse over time. Specifically, we consider the factors affecting the time needed for a technology to be legitimated as well as its technological potential. We find that the dynamics of diffusion of a novel technology are affected by the characteristics of its building blocks, i.e. the technological components that combined together for the first time generate a novel technology.

Scientists’ citing behavior (in collaboration with Michele Pezzoni and Gianluigi Viscusi)
Citations have a scientific and a social origin. On one side, scientists refer to another scientist’s work to acknowledge the source of her methods, ideas, and findings. On the other side, scientists support with citations their social group, institution, and school of thought. By exploiting a well-known controversy within the Human Brain Project community, one of the largest communities in neuroscience, we isolate the two components and quantify the role of social factors in the citations behavior.

Strategic team formation (in collaboration with Stijn Kelchtermans and Michele Pezzoni)
Why do scientists team up to do research? A first explanation stems from the ‘burden of knowledge’ (Jones, 2009): scientists increasingly resort to teamwork to deal with the ever-accumulating knowledge base that they must master to push the scientific frontier. Other reasons include quality - teams tend to produce better science - and the mere fact that increased connectivity has decreased the cost of collaborating (Stephan, 2012). Furthermore, in the context of competitive research grants, scientists may team up in order to maximize their chances of being awarded. In particular, scientists might strategically team up according to strengths or liabilities perceived by the grant-awarding committees. An obvious example is the “liability of being young”, with junior scientists having a necessarily more limited track record than their more established colleagues and who may therefore find it harder to convince a panel of their expertise. Also, female scientists potentially face such a disadvantage in an institutional environment dominated by male scientists, and as a consequence may deliberately seek to compose or join a team that substitutes for this potential disadvantage, such as teaming up with male and/or established scientists. We analyze differences in team formation and team consolidation strategies by male and female scientists and how team composition affects the odds of acquiring funding.

Explaining gender bias (in collaboration with Jacques Mairesse and Michele Pezzoni)
The project aims at understanding the reasons behind the widely documented and unexplained productivity gender gap in science. It focuses on the role played by the institutional setting, discipline specificities and family duties in explaining the productivity gender gap. The uniqueness of the study will rely on using novel longitudinal datasets complemented by survey data on family duties and administrative appointments conducted on a large sample of CNRS French physics. The accuracy and the richness of the data will allow me to go beyond the descriptive approach that is mainly used in the current studies identifying the causes of the gender gap.

Talent flows and selectivity (in collaboration with Charles Ayoubi, Gabriele Cristelli, Dominique Foray, and Gabriele Pellegrino)
International migration represents one of globalization’s major aspects and high-skilled individuals have become one of its primary components, especially within fields related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Recognizing the importance of these talent flows, economists have been keen on studying their repercussions on both receiving and sending countries. While most studies have focused on migration for working purposes, less has been done on the international mobility of university students. Students’ migration differs from workers migration on several aspects, such as the timing of the decision, the main motivation (i.e., skills’ acquisition), and the uncertainty about a future entry in the host country’s labor market. This project aims at filling some of the gaps in the literature by evaluating key aspects of STEM students’ international migration. Unlike the majority of the economic evidence on the subject, mostly focused on the United States, we will explore international students’ migration to Switzerland, a country with a different tertiary education system and a smaller labor market, embedded in a continent that has progressively cut many of its barriers to human capital movement.

Risk taking in research and career perspectives
There is a rising debate within the scientific community about the incidence of risk in research. On one side, risky studies are the ones that lead to breakthrough discoveries and scientific progress. On the other side, risky studies are also limited since the uncertainty of their outcomes might refrain researchers to invest their efforts on them. A funding system that rarely funds proposal too unlikely to succeed and a career evaluation system based mainly on publications’ record judgment lead researchers to adopt a more conservative approach in their research projects. So far studies on the relationship between risk taking and researchers’ outcomes are limited since risky projects (by definition) have a high level of uncertainty and failures are difficult to observe. My idea would be to look at one of the first achievement in a researcher’s career, her PhD dissertation, and to evaluate the impact of the level of risk of the topics developed over the PhD on the later career perspectives (job appointments and academic productivity in term of number of papers produced, impact factor of the journals where those papers appear and citations received).


    I am always open to new opportunities for collaborations! If you find my research interesting and have an idea for a collaboration, please feel free to contact me at visentin@merit.unu.edu.