(Details fictionalized.) My research involves a new way of forecasting the weather. Unlike other forecasting models, the model I have developed says that the weather in a certain region will be amenable to farming next year. Before I post the preprint of my paper, I am considering "betting" on my model by investing in some agricultural stocks in the region in question.
Would placing a bet on my research have a negative effect on my ability to publish down the line?
What other ethical and legal issues should a researcher consider before making a bet like this?
Are there historical examples of scholars making bets like this, and how did it play out?
- I recognize that being financially staked in the correctness of my research yields a conflict of interest, and I would report this when posting the preprint and seeking publication.
- This question concerns the consequences of such a bet for me as a researcher, not whether placing such a bet is a wise financial decision. In this hypothetical scenario, I would not invest more money than I am willing to lose. However, if the size of the bet changes the ethics, then you may note this in your answer.
Edit: I greatly appreciate the interest this question has attracted, but I haven't selected an answer yet because most of the answers so far (with a few exceptions, which I have gratefully +1ed) have focused on the question of whether there is a conflict of interest rather than on the question in bold, which is what the consequences of the conflict of interest would have for my ability to publish.
The ethical debate can be summarized as follows: "There is nothing wrong with betting on yourself being right; if anything it lends you credibility" vs. "Stock prices are themselves indicators of beliefs rather than morality, so the situation described still creates a conflict of interest." As commenters have pointed out, this debate ultimately turns on the details of the circumstance, the nature of the financial products, and so on—details I have not provided. However, for the purposes of this SE question, the fact that this bet creates a conflict of interest is given. That is, assume that if my research is widely accepted, I stand to make a (very small) profit, regardless of whether the particular predictions pan out. How would, for example, a paper referee react to such a conflict of interest?
I concede that this may be a more banal question, but it also keeps us more safely within the margins of academia.SE's "no opinion questions" rule. Possible answers could include
- Everyone pursuing an academic career is, to one extent or another, "betting on their research," and throwing a stock purchase into the mix doesn't rise above the threshold of suspicion.
- In principle, monetary instruments can create conflicts of interest, but there are ways to clarify to the referees (how?) that you are betting a small amount of money, and doing so in a way that is maximally correlated to the correctness of the results rather than people's expectations, which could be swayed by the impact of the research. As long as you make this clarification, then it's no big deal.
- Even if there is not an ethical issue in the philosophical sense, any sort of monetary bet creates the appearance of a conflict of interest, and for that reason it will be harder to publish this paper in a high-quality journal.
In my own field (which, as some of you have figured out, has nothing to do with the climate or farming), I have seen a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal that argued for the efficacy of a certain sampling methodology, and then included on the final page a disclosure saying that the study was funded by a company whose primary revenue source is performing the very same sampling methodology. In this case, it was very easy to draw an arrow from the funding source to the research outcome, but the paper was transparent and well argued. In a situation like this, does the paper ultimately get published because it's good enough to overlook the conflict of interest, or because the conflict of interest was commonplace enough not to warrant additional attention?