Cumulative Advantage and the Incentive to Commit Fraud in Science

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Abstract

This paper investigates how the credit incentive to engage in questionable research practices (up to and including fraud) interacts with cumulative advantage, the process whereby high-status academics more easily increase their status than low-status academics. I use a mathematical model to highlight two dynamics that have not yet received much attention. First, due to cumulative advantage, questionable research practices may pay off over the course of an academic career even if they do not appear attractive at the level of individual publications. Second, because of the role of bottleneck moments in academic careers, questionable research practices may be selected for even if they do not provide a benefit in expectation. I also observe that, within the model, the most successful academics are the most likely to have benefited from fraud.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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