Polycentric Structure and Informal Norms: Competition and Coordination within the Scientific Community
Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, Forthcoming
33 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2014
Date Written: October 10, 2014
The success of the scientific community challenges in many ways our theories of social cooperation and public goods production. It is a very large scale, decentralized, international organization lacking any central management or a formalized legislative or rule-enforcement body. Even the entry/exclusion rules are lax and unclear. By many standards it should not work. But instead it is one of the most successful human endeavours of all time. This paper provides an updated institutionalist theory of how this community works, with an extended discussion of its informal norms, prestige mechanisms, decentralized resource allocation, and interactions with states and civil society. Second, the paper discusses the ways in which the scientific community can fail at its truth-seeking task as a result of distortions created by outside political pressure and interactions with self-interested funding sources, arguing that, as long as the polycentric structure is kept in place and the informal norms are preserved, the distortions are likely to be minor.
Keywords: economics of science, polycentricity, informal norms, signalling, prestige
JEL Classification: B52, D79, D83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation