Study: Men more likely than women to commit scientific fraud

January 22, 2013

Male scientists are far more likely to commit fraud than females and the fraud occurs across the career spectrum, from trainees to senior faculty. The analysis of professional misconduct was co-led by a researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and was published today in the online journal mBio.

"The fact that occurs across all stages of suggests that attention to ethical aspects of scientific conduct should not be limited to those in training, as is the current practice," said senior author Arturo Casadevall, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of & immunology and professor of medicine at Einstein, as well as editor-in-chief of mBio.

He added, "Our other finding – that males are overrepresented among those committing misconduct – implies a gender difference we need to better understand in any effort to promote the integrity of research."

In a previous study, Dr. Casadevall found that misconduct is responsible for two-thirds of all retractions of scientific papers. The finding was unexpected, since earlier research had suggested that errors account for the majority of retracted scientific papers.

Researchers embarked on the current study to better understand those who are guilty of scientific . They reviewed 228 individual cases of misconduct reported by the United States Office of Research Integrity (ORI) from 1994 through 2012. ORI promotes the responsible conduct of research and investigates charges of misconduct involving research supported by the Department of Health and Human Services.

An analysis determined that fraud was involved in 215 (94 percent) of the 228 cases reported by the ORI. Of these, 40 percent involved trainees, 32 percent involved faculty members, and 28 percent involved other research personnel (research scientists, technicians, study coordinators, and interviewers).

Overall, 65 percent of the fraud cases were committed by males, but the percentage varied among the academic ranks: 88 percent of faculty members who committed misconduct were male, compared with 69 percent of postdoctoral fellows, 58 percent of students, and 43 percent of other research personnel. In each career category, the proportion of males committing misconduct was greater than would have been predicted from the gender distribution of scientists. The gender difference was surprisingly large among faculty, said Dr. Casadevall, who also holds the Leo and Julia Forchheimer Chair in/of Microbiology & Immunology. Of the 72 faculty who committed fraud, just 9 were female – one-third of the expected 27 if females had committed fraud at the same rate as males.

The study did not examine why men are more likely to commit fraud. One possibility is that misconduct is biologically driven. "As research has shown, males tend to be risk takers, more so than , and to commit fraud entails taking a risk," said Dr. Casadevall. "It may also be that males are more competitive, or that women are more sensitive to the threat of sanctions. I think the best answer is that we don't know. Now that we have documented the problem, we can begin a serious discussion about what is going on and what can be done about it."

The researchers had hypothesized that the majority of cases of misconduct would involve trainees, who face intense pressure to publish – a critical step toward obtaining research funds. But they found that misconduct was spread rather evenly across the career spectrum. "You might think that as scientists go up the career ladder, they would feel more secure. But the bigger the lab you run, the more grants you need, which increases the pressures to publish and the temptation to cheat," said Dr. Casadevall.

While calling for more research to understand the motives for scientific misconduct, Dr. Casadevall recommends periodic ethics training for scientists at all levels of academia. "Right now we target for ethics training," he added. "We don't do anything after they are hired. It might help if universities required refresher courses in ethics, as they do with courses to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. It won't stop all misconduct, but it's one place to start."

Explore further: Misconduct, not error, accounts for most scientific paper retractions, new study finds

More information: The paper is titled "Males Are Overrepresented among Life Science Researchers Committing Scientific Misconduct."

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1.3 / 5 (14) Jan 22, 2013
The article says that misconduct accounted for two thirds of all retractions, which was "unexpected, since earlier reseaqrch had suggested that errors acount for the majority of retracted papers". How could misconduct be misinterpreted as "errors"? Or was it. Was it known that misconduct was rampant, but "scientists" lied to the public, for whom they have nothing but contempt, requiring them to bel;ieve that "science' is eminently ethical and affected only by "error"? And what of any "errors" reported now? What assurance is there that they aren't the result of misconduct? As they say in court, "False in one, false in all". What of repotts that aren't retracted, are they just so cravenly disguised that the perpetrators feel they can get away longer without admitting they lied?
2.8 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2013
Men are more likely to take any risk than women
or ...
women don't get caught! :)
3.8 / 5 (14) Jan 22, 2013
As they say in court, "False in one, false in all".

Yes, Julian. All of science is one big lie and conspiracy. That's why lasers, semiconductors, computers, PET scanners, spacecraft, carbon fiber, kevlar, and medicine don't exist. None of that stuff is real.

5 / 5 (3) Jan 22, 2013
Tru but in order to make your name commonplace and secure funds scientists have to be good marketeers these days and marketing involves moving hot air with the substance.
2.1 / 5 (15) Jan 22, 2013
I'm sure there is no "error" or "fraud" in climate science. There couldn't possibly be any fraud in any of the other theoretical sciences either, job security could never be motivation.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2013
I guess it depends on what area of science we are talking about but when I was at college we were in a class of 40 with only 3 females. After quickly reading this I didn't find anything about the area of science that the misconducting person was practicing. Perhaps it is more common to do misconduct in a technical degree then a biological one?
2.1 / 5 (7) Jan 22, 2013
There is also fraud amongst those tasked with identifying fraud.
5 / 5 (3) Jan 22, 2013
The article says that misconduct accounted for two thirds of all retractions, which was "unexpected, since earlier reseaqrch had suggested that errors acount for the majority of retracted papers". How could misconduct be misinterpreted as "errors"?

If a mistake in statistical analysis, a bug in crucial software, or a miscalibration is discovered only after publication, then that is not misconduct. It is possible to make mistakes without planning to cheat.

Does that make the difference clear?
1 / 5 (3) Jan 22, 2013
So will men be banished from science?
1.9 / 5 (8) Jan 22, 2013
Well Eventide, I think it's safe to say if the article said the opposite, many people here would be calling for women to be banished from science.
1 / 5 (10) Jan 22, 2013
"Science" isn't just "lasers, semiconductors, computers" and so on, it's those devices working the way "science" claims. There have been those who "argued" that "scientists" claim GPS uses relativistic calculations to work, therefore, "relativity" is real. That's the level of "reasoning" of many "science" devotees. Just because someone claims something works a certain way doesn't mean it does. There is no proof, for example, that electricity isn't tiny aliens carrying energy through a wire, and no "science" devotee ever tried to provide any. You can hook wires up to a rock, ask it questions and have a light flash out an answer. That doesn't mean the rock is necessarily answering. It's an old carny trick. Posterius Neticus can call all the anmes they want, they have no proof "science" can be believed.
2.3 / 5 (9) Jan 22, 2013
Lol, what mental disorder are you on?
1 / 5 (9) Jan 22, 2013
And Sigh eminently demonstrates the tendency of "science" devotees to ignore the obvious to try to whitewash "science". I asked how misconduct in papers later retracted couild have been seen as mere erros previously. Sigh's reponse is "It is possible to make mistakes without planning to cheat". But the article itself admits that the papers were retracted because of misconduct! It's not a case of simply calling calculation error willful misconduct! "Science" devotees will say anything to keep "science" from being seen as the fraud it is! Again, the article itself said that papers earlier believed to contain only errors were later definitely found to display misconduct and I asked how misconduct could be seen as just an "error".
2.1 / 5 (7) Jan 22, 2013
1. Observe
2. Hypothesize
3. Predict
4. Experiment
5. Repeat

Obviously cheating is simple.

1. Observe an untested facet of nature
2. Experiment
3. Create a false hypothesis out of experiment
4. Create a false prediction.
5. Repeat as many times as you like. The theory is made to fit experiment.
---Present as : 1, 3, 4, 2, 5

When done and presented perfectly no one is able to see this cheat.
2.3 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2013
Within the life science field, there is a particular propensity for data-fishing. Let's say a new drug is being tested. A cheat here is running the tests until a favourable result is reached. So test on a 100 people and sugar pill and new drug yield even results. Run test again, similar result. The test is run over and over until the result shows favourable numbers for the new drug. Disregard previous tests, stop future testing, rely on sample which shows the drug works, distribute it on this basis.

It is like flipping a coin 10 times. 5 times it's heads 5 times it's tails on average. Run this test over and over until all 10 flips produce heads. Disregard all previous flips, stop testing, present findings as: when flipping a coin 10 times all 10 flips come up as heads.
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 22, 2013
Or does this ring any bells:

1.) Create hypothesis.
2.) Create computer model and tweak it to verify hypothesis.
3.) Observe. Reject observations that don't fit model.
4.) When criticized, get emotional and attack critic with ad hominem arguments.
1 / 5 (3) Jan 22, 2013
Lol, what mental disorder are you on?

It must be terrible to go through life with a head that's miswired for excess paranoia. I really do feel for someone like him, who will go his entire life genuinely believing that "they" are "out to get him", seeing conspiracies and shadow organizations and hostile intentions everywhere, in everything. No one deserves that.
1 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2013
Create hypothesis. Create computer model and tweak it to verify hypothesis. Observe. Reject observations that don't fit model.
Actually, even the mainstream theories fit such a fraud model without problem, like the string theory. The attempts to detect extradimensions or cosmic strings or whatever else all failed - but at the moment, when some fringe idea is kept with many people, it isn't called the fraud anymore - but an idea with "huge potential". In similar way, like the stealing of money at large scale isn't called a thievery in real life - but a "multilevel business". Analogously, very large black holes aren't called a holes, but a "galaxies".
not rated yet Jan 26, 2013
If science is male dominated as if often mentioned ( as per the stupid advert they made to appeal to more women ), then surely this statistic is no surprise??
1 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2013
Even taking into account that there are more male faculty members, the researchers determined women should have committed fraud accounting for about 38 percent of misconduct instead of 12 percent. But the study does not "exclude the possibility that females commit research misconduct as frequently as males but are less likely to be detected."
not rated yet Feb 01, 2013
Even taking into account that there are more male faculty members, the researchers determined women should have committed fraud accounting for about 38 percent of misconduct instead of 12 percent. But the study does not "exclude the possibility that females commit research misconduct as frequently as males but are less likely to be detected."

It is also commonly studied and mentioned that men take more risks at work.

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