Otner, Sarah_PREFERRED_Web_framed.jpg


Imperial College Business School, #288A
London SW7 2AZ
+44(0)207 594 2683



I am a Junior Research Fellow in the Strategy and Organisational Behaviour group at Imperial College Business School, and a Visiting Lecturer at ESMT Berlin.

I am also an Affiliate Fellow of the Data Science Institute at Imperial College London, and an alumna and current affiliate of the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. I earned a Ph.D. in Management (Organisational Behaviour) and an MSc.Res. in Organisational & Social Psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and an A.B. (cum laude) in Psychology from Harvard College.



I am a behavioral scientist focused on how individuals gain and maintain social status for themselves, and how they judge deservingness to allocate social status to others. My principal research interests combine organization theory, strategy, networks, and innovation; I use approaches from economic sociology, social psychology, and economics. I adopt interdisciplinary research tools – including computational social science and mixed-methods approaches. Building on Robert K. Merton’s theories of status and competition, I endeavor to identify pathways to impact for society to solve its “wicked problems”, especially inequality.

My research focuses on awards and prizes. I study the design of, and the mechanisms that drive, competitions. My current work involves peer effects among elites, and invisible status effects during blinded judging. A second stream of my research examines innovation tournaments, and particularly Grand Challenge prizes. My ongoing projects include: prize scarcity, prize sharing, establishment of new prizes, and prize refusals.

Research Profile

Keywords: Status, Hierarchy, Social Evaluations, Social Judgment, The Matthew Effect, Productivity, Expertise, Elites, Power, Influence, Big Data

Recent Papers I Wish That I Had Written:

Bothner, M. S., et al. (2012). "How Does Status Affect Performance? Status as an asset vs. status as a liability in the PGA and NASCAR." Organization Science, 23(2): 416-433.

Kovács, B., and Sharkey, A. J. (2014). "The Paradox of Publicity: How an award can negatively impact the evaluation of quality." Administrative Science Quarterly, 59(1): 1-33.

Rossman, G., and Schilke, O. (2014). “Close, But No Cigar: The Bimodal Rewards to Prize-Seeking.” American Sociological Review, 79(1): 86-108.

Kim, J. W., and King, B. G. (2014). "Seeing Stars: Matthew Effects and status bias in Major League Baseball umpiring." Management Science, 60(11): 2619-2644.

Bowers, A., and Prato, M. (2018). "The Structural Origins of Unearned Status: How arbitrary changes in categories affect status position and market impact." Administrative Science Quarterly, 63(3): 668-699.

Aadland, E., et al. (2019). “Friends, Gifts, and Cliques: Social Proximity and Recognition in Peer-Based Tournament Rituals.” Academy of Management Journal, 62(3): 883-917.

Azoulay, P., et al. (2017). "Social Influence Given (Partially) Deliberate Matching: Career imprints in the creation of academic entrepreneurs." American Journal of Sociology, 122(4): 1223-1271.

Boudreau, K. J., et al. (2016). "Looking Across and Looking Beyond the Knowledge Frontier: Intellectual distance, novelty, and resource allocation in science." Management Science, 62(10): 2765-2783..



I teach undergraduate, MSc., MiM, MBA, and Executive Education courses in organizational behavior, strategy & organization theory, negotiations, networks, innovation, and leadership.




Professor Henning Piezunka & Dr Sarah Otner on Power, Status & Competition

Hosted at Imperial College London by Amin Siala on 9 October 2018


Kennedy, M. T., & Otner, S. M. G. What can we learn from umbrellas? Why social data science matters. IB Knowledge.

Otner, S. M. G. The role of the Flight Simulator ImpactLab:tm: in Management and Leadership Development.