FSW Seminar Ezra Zuckerman Sivan
Death of the Salesman, but not the Sales Force: Reputational Entrepreneurship and the Efficiency of Scientific Valuation
Prof. Ezra Zuckerman Sivan (MIT, USA)
Faculty of Social Sciences
Business and Organisation
Conference / Symposium / Seminar
Bio prof. Ezra Zuckerman Sivan
Ezra Zuckerman Sivan is Deputy Dean and the Alvin J. Siteman (1948) Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at MIT. He is also cofounder of MIT Sloan's PhD Program in Economic Sociology. As Deputy Dean, he has responsibility for all of Sloan’s faculty, approximately 200 (hiring, promotion and tenure, performance evaluation, and compensation), and half a dozen research centers based in Sloan. Zuckerman is an economic sociologist whose research focuses on showing how an understanding of fundamental social processes is important for shedding light on key issues in business and management, as well as how an appreciation for the dynamics of business and management inform our understanding of fundamental social processes. He is perhaps best known for demonstrating the importance of categorical structures in shaping valuation in various markets. Zuckerman's master's and executive level teaching centers on competitive and technology strategy, and he teaches two doctoral courses, "Sociology of Strategy" and "Identity and Action." Zuckerman holds a BA in political science from Columbia University as well as an MA and a PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago.
Using citations as a measure of valuation and death as a shock that affects efforts to promote scientific work but not the quality of the work, this paper exploits contingent shifts in opportunities to promote scientific work as a unique lens to assess how social signals affect the informational efficiency of a scientific field. As suggested by research on reputational entrepreneurship in art and politics, a scientist’s death has countervailing effects on promotion: while it prevents the scientist (“salesman”)—who has the most to gain from a higher valuation-- from engaging in promotional activity, it may mobilize others (the “sales force")-- who are more numerous and perhaps more credible-- to step up their promotional activity on behalf of the deceased. Analysis of the impact made by the death of 676 elite life scientists on the citation trajectory of 18,523 papers (as compared with 128,591 papers by 6,782 control scientists) indicates that (a) death induces a positive shift in the citation trajectory; (b) this seems largely due to the memorialization efforts made by the “sales force”; (c) this effect is long-lasting; (d) it is strongest for papers that had been relatively uncited; and (e) both memorialization levels and the effect of memorialization on citation are strongest when the scientist dies young and/or suddenly. These results shed light on how reputational entrepreneurship works in a domain where identity is meant to be irrelevant. Moreover, whereas recent research has demonstrated how “disinterested social validation” may limit the informational efficiency of meritocratic domains, this paper shows that “interested promotion” may be at least as important even though it includes biases that domain participants attempt to discount.