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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 115, Issue 12, December 2018

Remco Heesen
Pages 661-674
DOI: 10.5840/jphil20181151239

Why the Reward Structure of Science Makes Reproducibility Problems Inevitable

Recent philosophical work has praised the reward structure of science, while recent empirical work has shown that many scientific results may not be reproducible. I argue that the reward structure of science incentivizes scientists to focus on speed and impact at the expense of the reproducibility of their work, thus contributing to the so-called reproducibility crisis. I use a rational choice model to identify a set of sufficient conditions for this problem to arise, and I argue that these conditions plausibly apply to a wide range of research situations. Currently proposed solutions will not fully address this problem. Philosophical commentators should temper their optimism about the reward structure of science.