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Novelty versus Replicability: Virtues and Vices in the Reward System of Science

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


The reward system of science is the priority rule. The first scientist making a new discovery is rewarded with prestige, while second runners get little or nothing. Michael Strevens, following Philip Kitcher, defends this reward system, arguing that it incentivizes an efficient division of cognitive labor. I argue that this assessment depends on strong implicit assumptions about the replicability of findings. I question these assumptions on the basis of metascientific evidence and argue that the priority rule systematically discourages replication. My analysis leads us to qualify Kitcher and Strevens’s contention that a priority-based reward system is normatively desirable for science.

Values in Science
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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I am grateful to Carl Craver, Frederick Eberhardt, Barton Moffatt, Anya Plutynski, Mark Povich, Jan Sprenger, and Roy Sorensen for comments on previous drafts. I also thank Teresa Ai, Thomas Boyer-Kassem, Matteo Colombo, John Doris, Julia Staffel, and Michael Strevens for helpful discussion. Previous versions of this work were presented at the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division meeting, San Francisco, April 2016, and the Philosophy of Science Association Biennial Meeting, Atlanta, November 2016. This research was partially supported by ERC grant 640638, “Making Scientific Inferences More Objective.”


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