Large Teams Have Developed Science and Technology; Small Teams Have Disrupted It

09/07/2017 ∙ by Lingfei Wu, et al. ∙ 0

Teams dominate the production of high-impact science and technology. Analyzing teamwork from more than 50 million papers, patents, and software products, 1954-2014, we demonstrate across this period that larger teams developed recent, popular ideas, while small teams disrupted the system by drawing on older and less prevalent ideas. Attention to work from large teams came immediately, while advances by small teams succeeded further into the future. Differences between small and large teams magnify with impact - small teams have become known for disruptive work and large teams for developing work. Differences in topic and re- search design account for part of the relationship between team size and disruption, but most of the effect occurs within people, controlling for detailed subject and article type. Our findings suggest the importance of supporting both small and large teams for the sustainable vitality of science and technology.



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