Prepublication disclosure of scientific results: Norms, competition, and commercial orientation

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Science Advances  16 May 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 5, eaar2133
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar2133

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On the basis of a survey of 7103 active faculty researchers in nine fields, we examine the extent to which scientists disclose prepublication results, and when they do, why? Except in two fields, more scientists disclose results before publication than not, but there is significant variation in their reasons to disclose, in the frequency of such disclosure, and in withholding crucial results when making public presentations. They disclose results for feedback and credit and to attract collaborators. Particularly in formulaic fields, scientists disclose to attract new researchers to the field independent of collaboration and to deter others from working on their exact problem. A probability model shows that 70% of field variation in disclosure is related to differences in respondent beliefs about norms, competition, and commercialization. Our results suggest new research directions—for example, do the problems addressed or the methods of scientific production themselves shape norms and competition? Are the levels we observe optimal or simply path-dependent? What is the interplay of norms, competition, and commercialization in disclosure and the progress of science?

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