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In Scientific Research, Men Outcheat Women

January 25, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Medical Ethics
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In what may not be a very startling revelation, a study of research misconduct found that male scientists were far more likely than female scientists to commit professional fraud.

The study also determined that scientific research cheating occurs at all levels, from students who are scrambling to make their marks and perhaps not fully versed in all the nuances of ethical behavior to senior faculty members and researchers who certainly should know better.

Arturo Casadevall, MD, PhD, senior author of the study, said:

The fact that misconduct occurs across all stages of career development suggests that attention to ethical aspects of scientific conduct should not be limited to those in training, as is the current practice.

Dr. Casadevall is professor and chair of microbiology and immunology and professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York. He is also editor in chief of mBio, the open-access journal in which the cheating-research article was published on Tuesday. He was quoted in an Einstein College news release.

“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,” he said.

The researchers reviewed 228 cases of misconduct reported by the Office of Research Integrity (which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) from 1994 through 2012. All of the research was supported by HHS. Only 16 percent of the misconduct cases were attributed to students and 25 percent to postdoctoral fellows; faculty members were blamed for 32 percent and other research personnel for 28 percent.

Altogether, 65 percent of those committing fraud were male. Men were substantially overrepresented even given the general overrepresentation of men in the sciences. The researchers were cautious in speculating about reasons. “Nevertheless,” they wrote, “it is generally known that men are more likely to engage in risky behaviors than women and that crime rates for men are higher than those for women.”

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