Are larger studies always better? Sample size and data pooling effects in research communities

Abstract

The persistent pervasiveness of inappropriately small studies in empirical fields is regu-larly deplored in scientific discussions. Consensually, taken individually, higher-powered studies are more likely to be truth-conducive. However, are they also beneficial for the wider performance of truth-seeking communities? We study the impact of sample sizes on collective exploration dynamics under ordinary conditions of resource limita-tion. We find that large collaborative studies, because they decrease diversity, can have detrimental effects in certain realistic circumstances that we characterize precisely. We show how limited inertia mechanisms may partially solve this pooling dilemma and dis-cuss our findings briefly in terms of editorial policies.

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David Waszek
École Normale Supérieure

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