Chuprov and Neyman: Priority in Science and the Uneven Diffusion of Scientific Results

Abstract: Priority in “discovery,” which sometimes leads to eponymy, is a highly prized form of reward in the scientific community. Recognition of priority is a norm whose violation will bring opprobrium (e.g. suspicion of plagiarism) upon the offender. But in order for an idea to receive an attribution of novelty, and its author to be acknowledged, it must first be noticed. This essay is a case study of an innovation (formulas related to stratified sampling) in the field of mathematical statistics that was “overlooked” for many years by many. Unknowingly, Jerzy Neyman (1894-1981) “refound” these formulas a decade later (1933). When a statistician in 1950 uncovered the original idea and its author (A.A. Chuprov, 1874-1926), he contacted Neyman who promptly published a “Recognition of priority” (1952). The study examines the perplexing situation in which some results become known to and recognized by the statistical community, while others, originating from the very same paper, were “overlooked” by sampling statisticians (among others) who, unlike Neyman, had access to the paper and thus had ample opportunity to identify Chuprov’s formulas as relevant to their work. Chuprov was well-known in the statistics world, and the publication in which he published his ideas (1923) was a respected statistical journal (Metron). How is it that it took nearly 20 years for someone in the statistics community to notice that Chuprov had anticipated Neyman in deriving the formulas in question?

KEYWORDS : priority; recognition; multiples; norms enforcement; stratified sampling; optimal allocation; non-diffusion

Paper available upon request.

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