The Economics of Scientific Misconduct

Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Forthcoming

33 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2008 Last revised: 2 Feb 2011

See all articles by Nicola Lacetera

Nicola Lacetera

University of Toronto - Strategic Management; University of Toronto at Mississauga - Department of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Lorenzo Zirulia

University of Bologna - School of Economics, Management, and Statistics

Date Written: March 30, 2008

Abstract

Scientific fraud is a pervasive phenomenon with deleterious consequences, as it leads to false scientific knowledge being published, therefore affecting major individual and public decisions. In this paper we build a game-theoretic model of the research and publication process that analyzes why scientists commit fraud and how fraud can be detected and prevented. In the model, authors are asymmetrically informed about the success of their projects, and can fraudulently manipulate their results. We show four main results. First, the types of scientific frauds that are observed are unlikely to be representative of the overall amount of malfeasance in science; also, star scientists are more likely to misbehave, but are less likely to be caught than average scientists. Second, a reduction in the costs of checking for frauds may not lead to a reduction of misconduct episodes, but rather to a change in the type of research that is performed. Third, an increase in competition between scientists may in fact reduce, and not increase, scientific misconduct. Finally, a more active role of editors in checking for misconduct does not always provide additional deterrence.

Keywords: Research and publication process, peer review, fraud

JEL Classification: A14, D82, K42, O31, Z13

Suggested Citation

Lacetera, Nicola and Zirulia, Lorenzo, The Economics of Scientific Misconduct (March 30, 2008). Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1113853

Nicola Lacetera (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Strategic Management ( email )

Canada

University of Toronto at Mississauga - Department of Management

Canada

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Lorenzo Zirulia

University of Bologna - School of Economics, Management, and Statistics ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 1
40126 Bologna, fc 47100
Italy

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