In this paper I argue that small incentives can lead to greater participation in surveys.
This paper argues that small incentives can lead to greater participation in surveys.
According to Unit 1: An approach to Academic Writing (Page: 22), the first one is informal and should be avoided in the academic writings; I'd agree to it too. However, the second one seems to be odd as the inanimate subject of it (This paper) is followed by an action verb (argues).
Can action verbs be sometimes used with inanimate subjects/topics? Because, otherwise, the second sentence would not be formal either.