The impact of awards on productivity

This post is brought on by an article I saw a while back about how winning awards changes people, which summarizes a recent paper by George Borjas and Kirk Doran on Prizes and Productivity: How winning the Fields medal affects scientific output.  The basic question in these articles is quite interesting:

What happens to researchers after they win major awards?

A pessimist might suggest that, upon receiving a major award, a researcher might  start to “slack off.”  It’s natural to think that after working hard for years to reach the pinnacle of their field, upon receiving the recognition, a certain loss of motivation might occur that could lead to a post-award slump… If we think of tenure as a major award, then it is certainly conventional wisdom that a post-tenure slump is common.

Basically, Borjas and Doran empirically tested this idea using data about the Fields medal, which is basically the Nobel prize of mathematics.  It is given to the top 2-4 mathematicians younger than 40 once every four years.

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