Not to Sound Overly Dramatic, But Are Perverse Incentives Risking a “New Dark Age” in Science?

Recently, Paul Smaldino and Richard McElreath published the results of a computer simulation where scientific research is governed by “laws” of natural selection based on publishing “success.” Their finding that perverse incentives can cause “bad science” to push out good science has received much attention (see, for example, here and here).
In a related article, “Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition”, MARC EDWARDS and SIDDHARTHA ROY, professors of civil engineering at Virginia Tech University, argue that a tipping point can be reached where competition for research funding causes unethical behaviour to drive scientific integrity — and scientists with integrity — out of research.  
The article is noteworthy for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a table that aggregates a number of “Perverse Incentives in Academia”.  It’s also noteworthy for this statement: “…a tipping point is possible in which the scientific enterprise itself becomes inherently corrupt and public trust is lost, risking a new dark age with devastating consequences to humanity.”  To read the article, click here.



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