When it comes to the spread of ideas, do they flow from top to bottom or from big-name universities or less prestigious institutions? A recent study from the University of Colorado Boulder suggests that meritocracy does not always work in reality. The findings are published in the journal EPJ Data Science.
Study shows that it matters where an idea gets started. When mid-level ideas began at less prestigious schools, they tended to stall, not reaching the full network. The same wasn't true for so-so thinking from major universities.
"If you start a medium- or low-quality idea at a prestigious university, it goes much farther in the network and can infect more nodes than an idea starting at a less prestigious university," Morgan said.
The study also brings some good news: The bias toward big-name universities mattered a lot less for high-quality ideas. In other words, great thinking can still catch fire in academia, no matter where it comes from.
"I think it's heartwarming in a way," Morgan said. "We see that if you have a high-quality idea, and you're from the bottom of the hierarchy, you have as good a chance of sending that idea across the network, as if it came from the top."