Academic superstars: competent or lucky?

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Synthese, ISSN: 0039-7857, Vol: 194, Issue: 11, Page: 4499-4518

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Heesen, Remco
Springer Nature; Springer; Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences; Philosophy of science; Social structure of science; Formal epistemology; Social epistemology; Network formation; Philosophy
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article description
I show that the social stratification of academic science can arise as a result of academics’ preference for reading work of high epistemic value. This is consistent with a view on which academic superstars are highly competent academics, but also with a view on which superstars arise primarily due to luck. I argue that stratification is beneficial if most superstars are competent, but not if most superstars are lucky. I also argue that it is impossible to tell whether most superstars are in fact competent or lucky, or which group a given superstar belongs to, and hence whether stratification is overall beneficial.