[Paleopsych] CHE: Scientific Misbehavior Is Rampant, Study of 3, 000 Researchers Finds
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Fri Jun 17 00:58:07 UTC 2005
Scientific Misbehavior Is Rampant, Study of 3,000 Researchers Finds The
Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.6.17
By RICHARD MONASTERSKY
A survey of more than 3,000 scientists revealed that a large fraction
are acting in ways that could compromise the integrity of research,
according to a study published in Nature last week.
A third of participants acknowledged that they had engaged in actions
such as overlooking others' use of flawed data, failing to present
data contradicting one's own work, and circumventing minor aspects of
While those actions don't rise to the level of fraud, fabrication, and
plagiarism -- the three cardinal sins of research -- they nonetheless
signal problems in the world of science, says Brian C. Martinson, a
research investigator at HealthPartners Research Foundation, a
not-for-profit center in Minneapolis.
"The larger share of behaviors reported to us are more corrosive than
explosive -- more questionable research practices that could undermine
the quality of the scientific record," says Mr. Martinson. He
conducted the study with Melissa S. Anderson and Raymond de Vries, of
the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Mr. Martinson and his colleagues used a focus group of scientists to
draw up a list of potentially questionable research practices. From
that list, research-compliance officers from universities identified
10 behaviors that would "get a scientist into trouble at the
institutional or federal level." The Minnesota investigators surveyed
3,247 midcareer scientists and postdoctoral research fellows supported
by grants from the National Institutes of Health.
One in three of those who responded admitted to engaging in at least
one of the 10 behaviors identified as potentially sanctionable by the
university compliance officers. Of those, 15.5 percent said that they
had changed "the design, methodology, or results of a study in
response to pressure from a funding source."
"With as many as 33 percent of our survey respondents admitting to one
or more of the top-ten behaviors, the scientific community can no
longer remain complacent about such behaviors," conclude the study's
Other data collected by Mr. Martinson and his colleagues suggest that
many scientists see inequities in science regarding obtaining grants,
publishing papers, and earning promotions.
The researchers also found a correlation between scientists who
perceived injustice in the system and those who admitted misbehaving.
Theodore O. Poehler, vice provost for research at the Johns Hopkins
University, says that some of the questions in the survey were
difficult to interpret, so it is hard to know exactly what survey
respondents meant when they answered such questions. But the results
overall are troubling, he says. "Those are problematic behaviors and
not anything to be happy about."
He says universities may need to train faculty better about
appropriate research behavior and how to preserve the integrity of
science. But he cautions against drawing up new regulations regarding
questionable behavior because those categories are hard to define. "If
we start getting into gray areas, this is going to be very difficult
for universities and the government to regulate," he says.
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