Incentive structures shape scientists' research practices. One incentive in particular, rewarding priority of publication, is hypothesized to harm scientific reliability by promoting rushed, low-quality research. Here, we develop a laboratory experiment to test whether competition affects information sampling and guessing accuracy in a game that mirrors aspects of scientific investigation. In our experiment, individuals gather data in order to guess true states of the world and face a tradeoff between guessing quickly and increasing accuracy by acquiring more information. To test whether competition affects accuracy, we compare a treatment in which individuals are rewarded for each correct guess to a treatment where individuals face the possibility of being ‘scooped’ by a competitor. In a second set of conditions, we make information acquisition contingent on solving arithmetic problems to test whether competition increases individual effort (i.e. arithmetic-problem solving speed). We find that competition causes individuals to make guesses using less information, thereby reducing their accuracy (H1a and H1b confirmed). We find no evidence that competition increases individual effort (H2, inconclusive evidence). Our experiment provides proof of concept that rewarding priority of publication can incentivize individuals to acquire less information, producing lower-quality research as a consequence.
|Date made available
|Jan 1 2019
|figshare Academic Research System