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The Career Effects of Scandal: Evidence from Scientific Retractions

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  • Pierre Azoulay
  • Alessandro Bonatti
  • Joshua L. Krieger

Abstract

We investigate how the scientific community's perception of a scientist's prior work changes when one of his articles is retracted. Relative to non-retracted control authors, faculty members who experience a retraction see the citation rate to their earlier, non-retracted articles drop by 10% on average, consistent with the Bayesian intuition that the market inferred their work was mediocre all along. We then investigate whether the eminence of the retracted author and the cause of the retraction (fraud vs. mistake) shape the magnitude of the penalty. We find that eminent scientists are more harshly penalized than their less distinguished peers in the wake of a retraction, but only in cases involving fraud or misconduct. When the retraction event had its source in “honest mistakes,” we find no evidence of differential stigma between high- and low-status faculty members.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre Azoulay & Alessandro Bonatti & Joshua L. Krieger, 2015. "The Career Effects of Scandal: Evidence from Scientific Retractions," NBER Working Papers 21146, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21146
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    Cited by:

    1. Nagler, Markus & Sorg, Stefan, 2020. "The disciplinary effect of post-grant review – Causal evidence from European patent opposition," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(3).
    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. Nagler, Markus & Sorg, Stefan, 2019. "The Disciplinary Effect of Post-Grant Review," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 155, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    4. Zunino, Diego & van Praag, Mirjam C. & Dushnitsky, Gary, 2017. "Badge of Honor or Scarlet Letter? Unpacking Investors' Judgment of Entrepreneurs' Past Failure," IZA Discussion Papers 11017, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. 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.
    6. Sorana D Bolboacă & Diana-Victoria Buhai & Maria Aluaș & Adriana E Bulboacă, 2019. "Post retraction citations among manuscripts reporting a radiology-imaging diagnostic method," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(6), pages 1-14, June.
    7. Masoud Shadnam & Andrew Crane & Thomas B. Lawrence, 2020. "Who Calls It? Actors and Accounts in the Social Construction of Organizational Moral Failure," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 165(4), pages 699-717, September.
    8. Mohan, Vijay, 2019. "On the use of blockchain-based mechanisms to tackle academic misconduct," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(9), pages 1-1.
    9. March, Raymond J. & Geloso, Vincent, 2020. "Gordon Tullock meets Phineas Gage: The political economy of lobotomies in the United States," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(1).
    10. Markus Nagler & Stefan Sorg, 2019. "The disciplinary effect of post-grant review - causal evidence from European patent opposition," CESifo Working Paper Series 7599, CESifo.
    11. Salandra, Rossella, 2018. "Knowledge dissemination in clinical trials: Exploring influences of institutional support and type of innovation on selective reporting," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(7), pages 1215-1228.
    12. M. D. Ribeiro & S. M. R. Vasconcelos, 2018. "Retractions covered by Retraction Watch in the 2013–2015 period: prevalence for the most productive countries," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 114(2), pages 719-734, February.
    13. S. P. J. M. Horbach & W. Halffman, 2019. "The ability of different peer review procedures to flag problematic publications," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 118(1), pages 339-373, January.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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