- There exists a Prisoners’ Dilemma in academia, where researchers engage in misconduct in equilibrium.
- Conventional “centralized” solutions under the current system may not work.
- New advances in distributed ledger technology, like blockchain, provide a decentralized alternative.
- The incentive structures in academia may necessitate a solution involving a permissioned blockchain.
- Open Science is necessary to fight misconduct.
Current incentives for publishing in academic journals result in a “winner-take-all” contest-like situation, with significant benefits for publishing research in quality journals. At the same time, empirically, we observe a greater incidence of research misconduct. The purpose of this paper is to summarize the nature and extent of the misconduct problem, to show why it may persist in the absence of conscious remedial action, and to discuss solutions that help lower the likelihood of spurious research escaping undetected. A simple model is constructed to emphasize that there exists the potential for a Prisoners’ Dilemma in academia, where scholars engage in misconduct at equilibrium (the Academic Dilemma). The paper then examines why conventional “centralized” regulatory solutions under the current system are not likely to succeed in resolving the problem, analyzes the properties of a decentralized solution utilizing blockchains, and argues that once incentive structures in academia are factored in, a permissioned blockchain may emerge as an effective middle-ground solution for mitigating scientific misconduct. In doing so, the paper highlights the importance of new technologies and recent advancements in Open Science for battling misconduct, and takes stock of the evolving nature of academic publishing.
Academic misconduct, Prisoners’ dilemma, Blockchain, Open science, Decentralized cooperation
Mohan, V. (2019) On the use of blockchain-based mechanisms to tackle academic misconduct. Research Policy. 48(9), November 2019, 103805