Cheating on science research happens frequently with increased publication pressure
Scientists who experience pressure to publish are more likely to be guilty of questionable research practices, an integrity study showed according to the NRC.
The results of the National Survey on Research Integrity by Lex Bouter showed that more than half of the scientists in the Netherlands regularly violate scientific rules by omitting unwelcome research results, covering up methodological problems, or selectively citing scientific literature. Around eight percent of scientists are said to even have identified or falsified research results in the past three years.
The survey found a connection between violating scientific procedures and a number of external factors. Scientists who felt they had to publish a paper as fast as possible to receive funding were more likely to be guilty of questionable research practices. Men and scientists at the beginning of their careers were also more likely to forge results.
On the other hand, if researchers felt their paper would be thoroughly reviewed by their peers, they were less prone to commit fraud.
“Perhaps not very shocking”, Bouter noted, “but it is the first time it has been established in this way. Please note: these are associations. Our research does not concretely determine cause and effect. It is, therefore, not given that if we turn down the publication pressure this behavior will immediately diminish.”
The integrity survey was sent to employees of 22 Dutch universities and medical centers. Questions were asked about scientifically improper behavior and the factors that could possibly influence it. In total, Bouter sent out more than 63 thousand surveys and had a response rate of 21 percent.
The Minister of Science, Ingrid van Engeloven called the results "worrying" and "an important signal" that something has gone wrong in science. The minister said she wants to talk to universities about how to resolve the issue. "Shouldn't we value scientists' work differently?", she wondered. "So that they are not paid solely on the number of publications but also for what they contribute to research, education and their impact on society."
Participants were allowed to answer the most sensitive questions anonymously. “This technique is also used in investigations into doping in sports and abuse of social security. It leads to a two to three times higher percentage of people who confess to breaking the rules”, Bouter said.
Bouter emphasized out that the survey reflected the actions of individuals and not on Dutch science as a whole. It is, nonetheless, unlikely that the number of scientists that commit fraud is lower in actuality. “In any case, they will not be much lower because I cannot imagine that respondents have admitted to mistakes they did not do”, Bouter thought.