The Retraction Penalty

In a new working paper called "The Retraction Penalty: Catastrophe and Consequence in Scientific Teams" (gated), Ginger Zhe Jin, Benjamin Jones, Susan Feng Lu, and Brian Uzzi explore a fascinating research question:

What are the individual rewards to working in teams? This question extends across many production settings but is of long-standing interest in science and innovation, where the “Matthew Effect” [a.k.a. "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" suggests that eminent team members garner credit for great works at the expense of less eminent team members. In this paper, we study this question in reverse, examining highly negative events – article retractions. Using the Web of Science, we investigate how retractions affect citations to the authors’ prior publications. We find that the Matthew Effect works in reverse – namely, scientific misconduct imposes little citation penalty on eminent coauthors. By contrast, less eminent coauthors face substantial citation declines to their prior work, and especially when they are teamed with an eminent author. A simple Bayesian model is used to interpret the results. These findings suggest that a good reputation can have protective properties, but at the expense of those with less established reputations.

To me, this finding is a bit surprising at first glance but, upon second glance, not really -- but still fascinating.

If you are even a little bit interested in this topic and don't know about the Retraction Watch website, you should. A few recent examples:

Are Fake Resumes Ethical for Academic Research?

“Audit studies” have been popular in labor economics research for 10 years.  The researcher sends resumés of artificial job applicants in response to job openings. Typically there is a crucial difference in some characteristic of the person that indicates a particular racial/gender/ethnic or other group to which one person within a pair of resumés belongs while the other does not.  The differential response of employers to the difference in the characteristic implied by the resumés is taken as a measure of discrimination in hiring.

Is this ethical? 

Incentivizing Peer Reviewers

It really annoys me! I review papers for scholarly journals and, if I agree to undertake the task, have never taken more than six weeks to get the job done. But sometimes my own papers are held by scholarly journals for a year, as the journal waits on reviews by one or more delinquent reviewers.

Score a Point for Seth Roberts and the Shangri-La Diet

Earlier this week, we linked to a news article about a medical study finding that rats gained about the same amount of weight (80 grams, versus 72 grams on average) when they ate saccharine sweetened yogurt as when they ate yogurt sweetened with glucose. In both cases, the rats ate the yogurt in addition to […]

Is the U.S. High School Graduation Rate Worse Than We Thought?

That’s the assertion made by James Heckman and Paul LaFontaine in a new working paper called “The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels.” Here is their abstract: This paper uses multiple data sources and a unified methodology to estimate the trends and levels of the U.S. high school graduation rate. Correcting for important […]

Mozilla Gets Freaky

For the last few years I’ve been trying to convince businesses to run experiments in order to learn how to do things better. Why is it that experimentation is the gold standard in science, but rarely exploited in corporations? My own hunch is that the main reason is what economists call “path dependence” — in […]

Love Your Job? That Doesn’t Mean You’re Better at It

The conventional employer wisdom has always been that a happy employee is a more productive employee. Countless dollars are spent every year on initiatives to raise employee morale, create camaraderie in the workplace, and eliminate practices that could lead to a hostile work environment, all so that companies can boost their retention rates and productivity […]

Why Are Women More Likely to Be Obese Than Men?

In almost all countries, women are more likely to be obese than men. The economists Anne Case and Alicia Menendez set out to learn why, using data collected from a township outside of Cape Town, South Africa. Here’s what they determined: 1. “Women who were nutritionally deprived as children are significantly more likely to be […]

The Economics of Mosquitoes

You might not think that mosquitoes would be a great topic for economists, but two recent papers prove otherwise. I grew up in Minnesota. The state motto is “The Land of 10,000 Lakes,” which meant that there was never a shortage of mosquitoes. When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to go in the […]

The FREAK-est Links

Should age be measured according to “years left to live”? (Hat tip: Marginal Revolution) Study profiles the average identity thief. (Earlier) More baseball promotions: free tacos for stolen bases. (Earlier) Rock Paper Scissors goes high-tech. (Earlier)