New working paper: “Cheat or Perish ? A Theory of Scientific Customs”

A new working paper of the Condorcet Center is avalaible HERE.


  • Benoît LE MAUX – CREM-CNRS and Condorcet Center, University of Rennes 1, France
  • Sarah NECKER – University of Freiburg, Walter-Eucken Institute, Deutschland
  • Yvon ROCABOY – CREM-CNRS and Condorcet Center, University of Rennes 1, France


We develop a theory of the evolution of scientific misbehavior. Our empirical analysis of a survey of scientific misbehavior in economics suggests that researchers’ disutility from cheating varies with the expected fraction of colleagues who cheat. This observation is central to our theory. We develop a one-principal multi-agent framework in which a research institution aims to reward scientific productivity at minimum cost. As the social norm is determined endogenously, performance-related pay may not only increase cheating in the short run but can also make cheat-ing increasingly attractive in the long run. The optimal contract thus depends on the dynamics of scientific norms. The premium on scientific productivity should be higher when the transmission of scientific norms across generations is lower (low marginal peer pressure) or the principal cares little about the future (has a high discount rate). Under certain conditions, a greater probability of detection also increases the optimal productivity premium.