Incentives for Replication in Economics

Sebastian Galiani, Paul Gertler, Mauricio Romero

NBER Working Paper No. 23576
Issued in July 2017
NBER Program(s):Development Economics Program, Technical Working Papers

Replication is a critical component of scientific credibility as it increases our confidence in the reliability of the knowledge generated by original research. Yet, replication is the exception rather than the rule in economics. In this paper, we examine why replication is so rare and propose changes to the incentives to replicate. Our study focuses on software code replication, which seeks to replicate the results in the original paper using the same data as the original study and verifying that the analysis code is correct. We analyse the effectiveness of the current model for code replication in the context of three desirable characteristics: unbiasedness, fairness and efficiency. We find substantial evidence of “overturn bias” that likely leads to many false positives in terms of “finding” or claiming mistakes in the original analysis. Overturn bias comes from the fact that replications that overturn original results are much easier to publish than those that confirm original results. In a survey of editors, almost all responded they would in principle publish a replication study that overturned the results of the original study, but only 29% responded that they would consider publishing a replication study that confirmed the original study results. We also find that most replication effort is devoted to so called important papers and that the cost of replication is high in that posited data and software are very hard to use. We outline a new model for the journals to take over replication post acceptance and prepublication that would solve the incentive problems raised in this paper.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23576

Published: How to make replication the norm, Nature, Volume 554, 2018, pages 417-419

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