Above a Swamp: A Theory of High-Quality Scientific Production

36 Pages Posted: 11 May 2015 Last revised: 10 Apr 2022

See all articles by Bralind Kiri

Bralind Kiri

TOBB University of Economics and Technology

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 Milan - Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods (DEMM)

Date Written: May 2015

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 and Lacetera, Nicola and Zirulia, Lorenzo, Above a Swamp: A Theory of High-Quality Scientific Production (May 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21143, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2604824

Bralind Kiri (Contact Author)

TOBB University of Economics and Technology

Nicola Lacetera

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 Milan - Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods (DEMM) ( email )

Via Conservatorio, 7
Milan, 20122
Italy

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