The real plague affecting science? It is not fraud

Last modified: May 23, 2017

When scientific fraud comes to light one thing can be certain: the case will draw much attention. However, most scientists don’t take fraud as the main threat to the accumulation of scientific knowledge. Instead they are more likely to mention other factors, such as underreporting of negative results or the use of ‘shoddy methodology.’

This blog reflects on the results of a survey that was conducted among scientists worldwide ‘asking them to rank a list of 60 misbehaviors by their impact on truth, trust in science, how often they occur, and how preventable those actions might be’*. The results of the survey show a different picture of the real challenge science is facing: not fraud but sloppy science.

In their discussion of the survey the authors raise the question of how to prevent sloppy science in a research climate that is still characterized by a ‘publish or perish’ incentive structure.


*Bouter LM, Tijdink J, Axelsen N, Martinson BC, ter Riet G. (2016). Ranking major and minor research misbehaviors: results from a survey among participants of four World Conferences on Research Integrity. Research Integrity and Peer Review, 1(1), 17. doi: 10.1186/s41073-016-0024-5

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