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Gotta Be First

A new analysis indicates that rushing to avoid being scooped affects the research methods scientists adopt, Science reports.

Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology and Arizona State University applied an evolutionary agent-based model to examine the effects of rewarding scientists who publish first on the overall scientific research enterprise. The simulated scientists, Science notes, had different strategies: some collected large datasets and some stopped pursuing a line of inquiry if scooped, but others would soldier on. This then carried on for generations of scientists varying levels of rewards given for publishing first being tested.

As reported in Nature Human Behaviour, the model suggests high rewards for publishing first leads to populations of scientists who publish on smaller datasets, which, Eindhoven's Leonid Tiokhin and Arizona State's Minhua Yan and Thomas Morgan note, reduces research reliability. But the researchers also found possible approaches to combat this effect such as increased startup costs as well as increased rewards for secondary studies or publishing negative results.

"Effective interventions to improve scientific practice require a causal understanding of the forces that shape scientists' behaviors," the trio writes in the paper. "Our model takes one step towards this goal."

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.