The Career Effects of Scandal: Evidence from Scientific Retractions
NBER Working Paper No. 21146
Scandals permeate social and economic life, but their consequences have received scant attention in the economics literature. To shed empirical light on this phenomenon, we investigate how the scientific community's perception of a scientist's prior work changes when one of his articles is retracted. Relative to non-retracted control authors, faculty members who experience a retraction see the citation rate to their earlier, non-retracted articles drop by 10% on average, consistent with the Bayesian intuition that the market inferred their work was mediocre all along. We then investigate whether the eminence of the retracted author and the publicity surrounding the retraction shape the magnitude of the penalty. We find that eminent scientists are more harshly penalized than their less distinguished peers in the wake of a retraction, but only in cases involving fraud or misconduct. When the retraction event had its source in “honest mistakes,” we find no evidence of differential stigma between high- and low-status faculty members.
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This paper was revised on January 21, 2016
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21146
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