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Flying the nest: how the home department shapes researchers’ career paths

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Hottenrott, Hanna 
Lawson, Cornelia 


This paper studies the importance of the socialization environment – nest – for the career destinations of early career researchers. In a sample of research groups in the fields of science and engineering at universities in Germany, we identify research orientation, output, funding as well as openness to industry and commercialization as relevant components. Nests that attract more public funding and are led by professors with high research performance are more likely to produce researchers who take jobs in public research, while links to industry predict jobs in the private sector. In a more nuanced analysis that differentiates between types of industry employment, we find that larger firms also recruit from groups with higher scientific performance, while small and medium-sized firms recruit from nests with a higher patent productivity. A focus on experimental development instead is associated with academic start-ups, and an applied focus with employment in consulting. Recommendations for research training are discussed.


This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Taylor & Francis via


researcher mobility, research groups, research funding, science-industry technology transfer, academic careers

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Studies in Higher Education

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Informa UK Limited
We thank the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) for providing the survey data and Susanne Thorwarth for help with the collection of publication and patent data. We thank participants at the ‘The Organisation, Economics and Policy of Scientific Research’ workshop organised by LEI & BRICK, Collegio Carlo Alberto, Torino (Italy) and the ‘Beyond spillovers? Channels and effects of knowledge transfer from universities’ workshop at the University of Kassel (Germany) for helpful comments. Cornelia Lawson acknowledges financial support from the Collegio Carlo Alberto under Grant ‘Researcher Mobility and Scientific Performance’ and the University of Nottingham ‘International Collaboration Fund’.