Discussion paper

DP16024 Negative results in science: Blessing or (winner's) curse ?

Two players receiving independent signals on a risky project with common value
compete to be the first to innovate. We characterize the equilibrium of this preemption
game as the publicity of signals varies. Private signals create a winner's curse:
investing first implies that the rival has abstained from investing, possibly because he
has privately received adverse information about the project. Since players want to
gather more evidence in support of the project as a compensation, they invest later
when signals are more likely to be private. Because of preemption, the NPV of investment
is zero at equilibrium regardless of the publicity of signals. However, for a
conservative planner who cares about avoiding unprofitable investments, this implies
that investment arises too early at equilibrium, and such a planner then prefers signals
to be private. This provides a rationale against the mandatory disclosure of negative
results in science, notably when competition is severe. Our results suggest that
policy interventions should primarily tackle winner-takes-all competition, and regulate
transparency only once competition is sufficiently mild.


Bobtcheff, C, R Levy and T Mariotti (2021), ‘DP16024 Negative results in science: Blessing or (winner's) curse ?‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16024. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16024