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Above a swamp: A theory of high-quality scientific production

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  • Kiri, Bralind
  • Lacetera, Nicola
  • Zirulia, Lorenzo

Abstract

We elaborate a model of the incentives of scientists to perform activities of control and criticism when these activities, just like the production of novel findings, are costly, and we study the strategic interaction between these incentives. We then use the model to assess policies meant to enhance the reliability of scientific knowledge. We show that a certain fraction of low-quality science characterizes all the equilibria in the basic model. In fact, the absence of detected low-quality research can be interpreted as the lack of verification activities and thus as a potential limitation to the reliability of a field. Incentivizing incremental research and verification activities improves the expected quality of research; this effect, however, is contrasted by the incentives to free ride on performing verification if many scientists are involved, and may discourage scientists to undertake new research in the first place. Finally, softening incentives to publish does not enhance quality, although it increases the fraction of detected low-quality papers. We also advance empirical predictions and discuss the insights for firms and investors as they “scout” the scientific landscape.

Suggested Citation

  • Kiri, Bralind & Lacetera, Nicola & Zirulia, Lorenzo, 2018. "Above a swamp: A theory of high-quality scientific production," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(5), pages 827-839.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:47:y:2018:i:5:p:827-839
    DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2018.01.011
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    Cited by:

    1. Mueller-Langer, Frank & Fecher, Benedikt & Harhoff, Dietmar & Wagner, Gert G., 2019. "Replication studies in economics—How many and which papers are chosen for replication, and why?," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 62-83.
    2. Hussinger, Katrin & Pellens, Maikel, 2019. "Guilt by association: How scientific misconduct harms prior collaborators," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 516-530.
    3. Gall, Thomas & Maniadis, Zacharias, 2019. "Evaluating solutions to the problem of false positives," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 506-515.
    4. Le Maux, Benoît & Necker, Sarah & Rocaboy, Yvon, 2019. "Cheat or perish? A theory of scientific customs," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(9), pages 1-1.
    5. Mohan, Vijay, 2019. "On the use of blockchain-based mechanisms to tackle academic misconduct," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(9), pages 1-1.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economics of science; Reliability of research; Research incentives; Science policy;

    JEL classification:

    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives

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