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The Reverse Matthew Effect:Consequences of Retraction in Scientific Teams


E2018016               2018-06-28

Ginger Zhe Jin, University of Maryland and NBER

Benjamin Jones, Northwestern University and NBER

Susan Feng Lu, Purdue University and CCER

Brian Uzzi, Northwestern University


Teamwork pervades modern production, yet teamwork can make individual roles difficult to ascertain. The “Matthew Effect” suggests that communities reward eminent team members for great outcomes at the expense of less eminent team members. We study this phenomenon in reverse, investigating credit-sharing after damaging events. Our context is article retractions in the sciences. We find that retractions impose little citation penalty on the prior work of eminent coauthors, but less eminent coauthors experience substantial citation declines, especially when teamed with eminent authors. These findings suggest a “Reverse Matthew Effect” for team-produced negative events. A Bayesian model provides a candidate interpretation.

Keywords: teamwork, reputation, information, science, retraction, Matthew Effect.

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