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Pay researchers to spot errors in published papers

Nature – Borrowing the idea of ‘bug bounties’ from the technology industry could provide a systematic way to detect and correct the errors that litter the scientific literature. “In 2023, Google awarded a total of US$10 million to researchers who found vulnerabilities in its products. Why? Because allowing errors to go undetected could be much costlier. Data breaches could lead to refund claims, reduced customer trust or legal liability.It’s not just private technology companies that invest in such ‘bug bounty’ programmes. Between 2016 and 2021, the US Department of Defense awarded more than US$650,000 to people who found weaknesses in its networks. Just as many industries devote hefty funding to incentivizing people to find and report bugs and glitches, so the science community should reward the detection and correction of errors in the scientific literature. In our industry, too, the costs of undetected errors are staggering.Retractions are increasing, but not enough.That’s why I have joined with meta-scientist Ian Hussey at the University of Bern and psychologist Ruben Arslan at Leipzig University in Germany to pilot a bug-bounty programme for science, funded by the University of Bern. Our project, Estimating the Reliability and Robustness of Research (ERROR), pays specialists to check highly cited published papers, starting with the social and behavioural sciences (see Our reviewers are paid a base rate of up to 1,000 Swiss francs (around US$1,100) for each paper they check, and a bonus for any errors they find. The bigger the error, the greater the reward — up to a maximum of 2,500 francs…”

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