Three Ways To Become An Academic Superstar
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It is well-known that some scientists are more prominent than others. But what makes one scientist more prominent than another? I propose a possible mechanism that produces differences in prominence: scientists' desire for information. In a model of a scientific community exchanging information, I show that this mechanism indeed produces the kind of patterns of prominence that are actually observed. I discuss the implications of this result for three possible explanations of an individual scientist's prominence: an explanation based on scientific merit, an explanation based on epistemically irrelevant factors (e.g., gender bias or charisma), and an explanation based on epistemic luck. Depending on which of these explanations is correct one may draw different conclusions about a scientist based on prominence. I discuss policy recommendations that result from this, including suggestions about when it is appropriate to use measures of prominence (e.g., citation metrics) in giving out grants and awards.