Leonid Tiokhin, a metascientist at Eindhoven University of Technology, learned early on to fear being scooped. He recalls emails from his undergraduate adviser that stressed the importance of being first to publish: “We’d better hurry, we’d better rush.”
This story isn’t really just about the fear of being scooped, it is really an emphasis on the problem with publication as a metric for productivity. The apprehension and fear generated by the mad dash to publish has a serious distorting effect upon research practice.
Tiokhin’s team is not the first to make the argument that competition poses risks to science, says Paul Smaldino, a cognitive scientist at the University of California (UC), Merced, who was not involved in the research. But the model is the first to use details that explore precisely how those risks play out, he says. “I think that’s very powerful.”