The Reverse Matthew Effect: Catastrophe and Consequence in Scientific Teams
Teamwork pervades modern production and organizations, yet teamwork can make individual roles difficult to ascertain. In assigning individual rewards, the “Matthew Effect” suggests that communities presume eminent team members are responsible for great outcomes, reducing the credit that accrues to less eminent team members. We study this phenomenon in reverse, investigating credit sharing for damaging events. Our empirical context is article retractions in the sciences and the effect these negative events impose on citations to the authors' prior work. We find that retractions impose little citation penalty on eminent coauthors, but less eminent coauthors face substantial citation declines, especially when teamed with an eminent author. These findings suggest a “Reverse Matthew Effect” for team-produced negative events. A Bayesian model provides a candidate interpretation.