Markets for Scientific Attribution

23 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2014 Last revised: 16 May 2022

See all articles by Joshua S. Gans

Joshua S. Gans

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management; NBER

Fiona Murray

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Entrepreneurship Center

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Date Written: May 16, 2022


Formal attribution provides a means of recognizing scientific contributions as well as allocating scientific credit. This paper examines the processes by which attribution arises and its interaction with market assessments of the relative contributions of members of scientific teams and communities – a topic of interest organizational economics of science and in understanding scientific labor markets. We demonstrate that a pioneer or senior scientist’s decision to co-author with a follower or junior scientist depends critically on market attributions as well as the timing of the co-authoring decision. This results in multiple equilibrium outcomes each with different implications for expected quality of research projects. However, we demonstrate that the Pareto efficient organisational regime is for the follower researcher to be granted co-authorship contingent on their own performance without any earlier pre-commitment to formal attribution. We then compare this with the alternative for the pioneer of publishing their contribution and being rewarded through citations to back to it. While in some equilibria (especially where co-authoring commitments are possible) there is no advantage to interim publication, in others this can increase expected research quality.

Keywords: scientific rewards, equity, incentives, co-authoring, citation patterns

JEL Classification: O34

Suggested Citation

Gans, Joshua S. and Murray, Fiona E., Markets for Scientific Attribution (May 16, 2022). Rotman School of Management Working Paper No. 2519603, Available at SSRN: or

Joshua S. Gans (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )



NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Fiona E. Murray

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Entrepreneurship Center ( email )

United States

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