The NeuroTree website says:
Big families stay big. Children of researchers with many offspring tend to have many offspring of their own.
This suggests a “pedigree” effect that many would see as positive (more students means more success). They don’t give the data supporting that claim, though.
I went looking for research on the effect of “pedigree.”
Goodwin and Sauer have a paper that sort of addresses the issue, although (1) it’s about economists, and; (2) they rated the prestige of the institution where a person got their doctorate, not the specific mentor (I suppose “lab” doesn’t have much meaning in business school). They find economists who received a degree from a “top 20” doctoral program gain a significant advantage in research productivity.
In contrast, a slightly newer paper by Long and colleagues (looking at management professors in business schools this time) found no effect of where someone got their doctorate, which seems to be evidence against “pedigree” being a useful predictor. Much more important to productivity was the quality of the institution where the faculty member was ultimately employed.
Williamson and Cable, again studying management faculty, found a positive correlation of productivity of doctoral supervisor with early career productivity. The more productive your boss, the more productive you are. Because it looked at the supervisor, not the program or institution, it seemed to be the closest to what I was looking for.
But the trail dried up for me when I went looking for similar data in the biological sciences. I’m sure there are papers out there, but I couldn’t find them very easily. If anyone knows any, I’d love references.
Evidence suggests that “pedigree” is an predictor of success. I was wrong.
I stand by my dislike of the term, however, with all the negative connotations that it has. “Pedigree” implies your past defines you. I prefer the term “heritage,” which recognizes that you are shaped and influence by your past, but are not necessarily defined by it.
Long RG, Bowers WP, Barnett T, White MC. 1998. Research productivity of graduates in management: Effects of academic origin and academic affiliation. The Academy of Management Journal 41(6): 704-714.
Goodwin TH, Sauer RD. 1995. Life cycle productivity in academic research: Evidence from cumulative publication histories of academic economists. Southern Economic Journal 61(3): 728-743.
Williamson I, Cable D. 2003. Predicting early career research productivity: the case of management faculty Journal of Organizational Behavior 24 (1): 25-44. DOI: 10.1002/job.178