Title: The Novelty Paradox & Bias for Normal Science: Evidence from Randomized Medical Grant Proposal Evaluations 
Speaker: Karim R. Lakhani (Harvard Business School) 
Date: Wednesday, March 6th
Time: 12-1pm
Room: Peter/Wright rooms in UC 

A core challenge in crowdsourcing is evaluation. When there are no objective criteria available, evaluation becomes a real bottleneck, when a multitude of entries come in a design context. In this study, we investigate whether novel research projects, those deviating from existing research paradigms, are treated with a negative bias in expert evaluations. We analyze proposals coming from a contest on InnoCentive and Harvard Medical School. During the evaluation, we recruited 142 expert university faculty members to evaluate 150 submissions, resulting in 2,130 randomly-assigned proposal-evaluator pair observations. Our results confirm a systematic penalty for novel proposals; a standard deviation increase in novelty drops the expected rank of a proposal by 4.5 percentile points. This discounting is robust to various controls for unobserved proposal quality and alternative explanations. Additional tests suggest information effects rather than strategic effects account for the novelty penalty. Only a minority of the novelty penalty could be related to perceptions of lesser feasibility of novel proposals.

Karim R. Lakhani is an associate professor in the Technology and Operations Management Unit at the Harvard Business School. He specializes in the management of technological innovation in firms and communities. His research is on distributed innovation systems and the movement of innovative activity to the edges of organizations and into communities. He has extensively studied the emergence of open source software communities and their unique innovation and product development strategies. He has also investigated how critical knowledge from outside of the organization can be accessed through innovation contests. He is the principal investigator and director of the Harvard-NASA Tournament Laboratory, which aims to systematize the use of innovation tournaments for the space agency.