Economists More Ethical; US Researchers Not

20 April 2009 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

| Mike Sykuta |

Thanks to Josh Wright over at TOTM, I found Ben Edelman and Ian Larkin’s recent HBS Working Paper on “Demographics, Career Concerns or Social Comparison: Who Games SSRN Download Counts?” Their abstract reads:

We use a unique database of every SSRN paper download over the course of seven years, along with detailed resume data on a random sample of SSRN authors, to examine the role of demographic factors, career concerns, and social comparisons on the commission of a particular type of gaming: the selfdownloading of an author’s own SSRN working paper solely to inflate the paper’s reported download count. We find significant evidence that authors are more likely to inflate their papers’ download counts when a higher count greatly improves the visibility of a paper on the SSRN network. We also find limited evidence of gaming due to demographic factors and career concerns, and strong evidence of gaming driven by social comparisons with various peer groups. These results indicate the importance of including psychological factors in the study of deceptive behavior.

Their results suggest that papers published in the Economics Research Network of SSRN are significantly less likely to have “fraudulent” downloads (as measured in their paper) while papers in the Finance, Legal, and Accounting Networks are significantly more likely to have fraudulent downloads. Aren’t these the places in which ethics are being more broadly taught? Business and Law?

Among their other interesting results, papers by non-US authors are less likely to have fraudulent downloads. Perhaps surprisingly, one’s status on the tenure track seems not to be important, but one’s peer comparisons do. Sadly, there is no attempt to directly measure the O&M effect.

Entry filed under: Ephemera, Former Guest Bloggers, Myths and Realities.

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