Researcher's Dilemma

Catherine Bobtcheff, Jérôme Bolte, and Thomas Mariotti


We model academic competition as a game in which researchers ¯ght for priority. Researchers privately experience breakthroughs and decide how long to let their ideas mature before making them public, thereby establishing priority. In a two-researcher, symmetric environment, the resulting preemption game has a unique equilibrium. We study how the shape of the breakthrough distribution affects equilibrium maturation delays. Making researchers better at discovering new ideas or at developing them has contrasted effects on the quality of research outputs. Finally, when researchers have different innovative abilities, speed of discovery and maturation of ideas are positively correlated in equilibrium.


Academic Competition; Preemption Games; Private Information;

JEL codes

  • C73: Stochastic and Dynamic Games • Evolutionary Games • Repeated Games
  • D82: Asymmetric and Private Information • Mechanism Design


Published in

The Review of Economic Studies, vol. 84, n. 3, July 2017, pp. 969–1014