What is behind research misconduct?

Tenure-track, funding, peer-review publications, teaching, advising, graduation, dissertations, preliminary exams, certifications… are just some examples of the constant pressures that academics and researchers (including PhD and post-doctoral students) face daily. However, does this justify taking intellectual property of others, commit plagiarism, claim undeserved authorship, violations of rules, or falsification of data?

Nowadays, misconduct among researchers is happening more and more, and probably individuals think that they would never get caught? Several agencies constantly overlook this cases. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services, constantly reports findings of research misconduct.

On December, 2018 a PhD Student was accused for research misconduct for falsifying and fabricating data to manipulate data and increase statistical significance on 9 published studies. The student entered into a Voluntary Exclusion Agreement to be excluded of any contracting with any agency of the United States for a period of three years, to serve as advisor, committee bard, or peer review committee.

Read full report: https://ori.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/2018-12/2018-26379.pdf

Even if sometimes succeeding in the academic world results in tempting situations to ignore the ethic codes, misconduct is considered a serious violation on the scientific community. Scientists who commit research misconduct typically face corrective actions from employers and funding agencies, as well as significant professional stigma.

Despite all the pressures behind research misconduct, it is always better to have in mind that many are going nowhere fast.



Your analysis of issues behind academic misconduct is detailed. I admire the way you captured some of the daily pressures face by academics and researchers and how you advised against using same to justify misconduct. Recognizing the rise in academic misconduct, I think the onus is then upon the academy to re-assess the outlining demands pose on academics. I think this is also a caveat to emerging researchers. Certainly, “it is always better to have in mind that many are going nowhere fast.”

Carlos Michelen

I like your end quote! It perfectly captures the sad current situation of the pre-tenure research environment. I fear though, that many departments do stick to misguided evaluation criteria (e.g. number of publications) in their tenure decision and it becomes enticing (even necessary) to pretend to get somewhere fast (fake it till you make it). Sad!

Kaiwen Chen

I like your analysis of reasons and consequences of conducting research misconduct. In my opinion, despite the research pressure, there could be some other reasons. For example, young researchers may not be well aware of the consequences of misconduct behaviors; some may wish they could get lucky of not being discovered; others may even not realize that they’ve involved in misconduct activities as this might be done by team members, their irresponsible students, etc. Even though there are punishments influencing their professional reputation, there still exists research misconduct activities. I am wondering if there is a need to introduce some other early intervention strategies such as academic ethics certificate, training workshops for young researchers. Young researchers are more willing to learn and remember.

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