More than half of Dutch scientists regularly engage in questionable research practices, such as hiding flaws in their research design or selectively citing literature, according to a new study. And one in 12 admitted to committing a more serious form of research misconduct within the past 3 years: the fabrication or falsification of research results.
This rate of 8% for outright fraud was more than double that reported in previous studies. Organizers of the Dutch National Survey on Research Integrity, the largest of its kind to date, took special precautions to guarantee the anonymity of respondents for these sensitive questions, says Gowri Gopalakrishna, the survey’s leader and an epidemiologist at Amsterdam University Medical Center (AUMC). “That method increases the honesty of the answers,” she says. “So we have good reason to believe that our outcome is closer to reality than that of previous studies.” The survey team published results on 6 July in two preprint articles, which also examine factors that contribute to research misconduct, on MetaArxiv.
When the survey began last year, organizers invited more than 60,000 researchers to take part—those working across all fields of research, both science and the humanities, at some 22 Dutch universities and research centers. However, many institutions refused to cooperate for fear of negative publicity, and responses fell short of expectations: Only about 6800 completed surveys were received. Still, that’s more responses than any previous research integrity survey, and the response rate at the participating universities was 21%—in line with previous surveys.
The survey found Ph.D. students had the hardest time meeting the standards of responsible research. Some 53% of them admitted to frequently engaging in one of the 11 questionable research behaviors within the past 3 years, compared to 49% of associate and full professors.