The Role of the Matthew Effect in Science

Published: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 37, 159–170, 2006.

Abstract: Robert Merton observed that better-known scientists tend to get more credit than less well-known scientists for the same achievements; he called this the Matthew effect. Scientists themselves, even those eminent researchers who enjoy its benefits, regard the effect as a pathology: it results, they believe, in a misallocation of credit. If so, why do scientists continue to bestow credit in the manner described by the effect? This paper advocates an explanation of the effect on which it turns out to allocate credit fairly after all, while at the same time making sense of scientists' opinions to the contrary.

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