MIE Research Seminar: Quantifying success and failure dynamics in science and innovation

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Quantifying success and failure dynamics in science and innovation
Speaker: Yian Yin, PhD Candidate, Industrial Engineering & Management Sciences at Northwestern University
Zoom Link

Abstract: A common and important layer underlying the improvement of industrial systems is the production and use of new scientific knowledge. Yet little is known about the quantitative mechanisms that govern the evolution and impact of science and innovation. In this talk, I will focus on two related but distinct studies to help us understand the complex dynamics of scientific success and failure across a wide variety of settings. In each study, I will begin by drawing together a large variety of empirical datasets that capture both successful and failed attempts across different domains of science and technology. I then build a stochastic framework to model how successful innovations emerge from past repeated failures, and how a community of innovators collectively contribute to punctuated record-breaking dynamics. Through these two examples, I hope to illustrate how a combination of canonical social science theories, large-scale empirical datasets, and operations research tools can help us better understand the fundamental dynamics, predictability, and uncertainty of success and human achievements.

Biography: Yian Yin is a PhD candidate of Industrial Engineering & Management Sciences at Northwestern University, with research affiliations at the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems and Center for Science of Science and Innovation. His research embraces a combination of modeling techniques from complexity science and operations research, analytical tools from data science, and theoretical insights from sociology and economics to understand the fundamental dynamics and predictability of scientific and technological progress. Together, his works tell a complex yet insightful story about how successful innovations emerge from failures, how creative careers unfold with social and environmental changes, and how successful ideas in science interact with other socioeconomic institutions. Yian’s research has been published in multidisciplinary journals including Nature, Science, Nature Human Behaviour, and Nature Reviews Physics and featured in a wide range of media outlets including Forbes, Fast Company, Scientific American, and MIT Technology Review.

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