Invisible geniuses: The advancement of the knowledge frontier.

This is a short summary of “Invisible Geniuses: Could the Knowledge Frontier Advance Faster?” by Ruchir Agarwal and Patrick Gaule.

  • The paper attempts to better understand the determinants of idea/knowledge production.
  • There are two key findings:
  • Firstly, individuals who are ‘talented’ as teenagers (proxied by International Mathematical Olympiad [IMO] score, a popular international Maths competition) are very capable of advancing the knowledge frontier later in life (proxied by a variety of measures of academic success in Maths research). On average, the higher the IMO score, the more likely a participant is to: obtain a Maths PhD, obtain a Maths PhD from a top 10 research school, publish more in academic journals, receive more citations, receive notable accolades such as the Fields Medal, or be a speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM).
  • Secondly, if these capable individuals were born in poorer countries, they are much less likely to contribute to the knowledge frontier than individuals born in wealthier countries. For example, on average IMO participants from low-income countries produce 34% fewer publications and receive 56% fewer citations than IMO participants from richer countries with the same IMO score.
  • The findings suggest that one way of developing the knowledge frontier faster is by creating policies to target these low-income students in order to support them in their academic careers. By doing so, we could improve the rate of progress made at the forefront of research.

For a longer summary post, see here.