Collaboration patterns and patenting in nanotechnology: exploring gender distinctions
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Drawing upon the research on gender in science (especially gender and publication and patent productivity), social network studies, and social studies of interdisciplinary research and nanotechnology, this dissertation develops and tests a series of hypotheses to advance the understanding of the gender difference in patenting in the U.S. Ridgeways theory of gender frame (Ridgeway, 2009, 2007; Ridgeway&England, 2004) is very powerful in explaining gender inequity at both micro- and macro-levels, and thus constitutes the foundation of this study. After laying out the theoretical foundation, I set out to focus on collaboration as one of critical mechanisms accounting for the gender difference in patenting. While social network scholars maintain that social capital resides in network structure and claim different structures provide different benefits (Borgatti, Jones,&Everett, 1998), I conceive of diversity as the most important structural feature of collaboration networks to predict patenting performance, and accordingly develop the concept boundary-spanning collaboration to refer to collaboration networks containing relationships to diverse others. Then, I rely on social studies of gender, network, and desired outcomes as well as research on interdisciplinary fields in general and nanotechnology in particular to propose several hypotheses regarding how gender would differ on boundary-spanning collaboration and how the differences matter the gender gap in patenting in the context of nanotechnology. Two sets of analyses, performed on large-scale patent data and individual-level survey data, generate novel and important findings. These results enhance our understanding of the distinct context of nanotechnology, especially with regard to collaboration and gender representation, and the interrelationships of gender, boundary-spanning collaboration, and patenting involvement in this context. In brief, there are three major findings. First, while nanotechnology and patenting activities present new areas for gendered studies in science, the influential gender stereotypes always predict the detection of a gender gap. Second, collaboration networks, especially those featured with diversity, are relevant to the gender gap in patenting nanotechnology in a complicated way, but the operationalization of diversity is the key to comprehend the complexity. Third, the returns from collaborative relationships are generally gendered, but the gender gap in returns varies upon the context where a relationship takes place. Relating these findings to previous research, I highlight the theoretical and methodological contributions of this study, point out its limitations for future research development, and draw pertinent policy implications.