Landmark research integrity survey finds questionable practices are surprisingly common
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Science Magazine
Posted: August 8th, 2021
More than half of Dutch scientists regularly engage in questionable research practices, such as hiding flaws in their research design or selectively citing literature, according to a new study. And one in 12 admitted to committing a more serious form of research misconduct within the past 3 years: the fabrication or falsification of research results. This rate of 8% for outright fraud was more than double that reported in previous studies. Organizers of the Dutch National Survey on Research Integrity, the largest of its kind to date, took special precautions to guarantee the anonymity of respondents for these sensitive questions, says Gowri Gopalakrishna, the survey’s leader and an epidemiologist at Amsterdam University Medical Center (AUMC). “That method increases the honesty of the answers,” she says. The survey found Ph.D. students had the hardest time meeting the standards of responsible research. Some 53% of them admitted to frequently engaging in one of the 11 questionable research behaviors within the past 3 years, compared to 49% of associate and full professors. To look for possible explanations of participants’ behavior, the study team also asked about their professional experiences—whether they felt workplace pressure or peer pressure, for instance. The team found that pressure to publish was most strongly correlated with questionable research behavior, and that perceptions of the chance of being caught by peer reviewers was the biggest factor in inhibiting misconduct.
Note: A former editor of The Lancet has suggested that up to half of all scientific literature may be untrue. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in science from reliable major media sources.