More than half of scientists in the Netherlands regularly violate scientific norms by omitting undesirable research results, by covering up study methodological problems or by selectively citing available literature. Even more than 8 percent have invented or falsified research results in the past three years. This is clear from National Research Integrity Survey, a project led by Lex Bouter, Professor of Methodology and Integrity at Vrije Universiteit and Amsterdam UMC. The results were published on Tuesday in Husband Articles. This is on prepress server. This means that the post has not yet been peer reviewed.
The project aims to improve the quality and reliability of scientific research in the Netherlands, says Bauter. “Next year we will talk to universities about how to use the results of the study.”
The survey found links between breaking scientific rules and a number of external factors. If researchers think they have a strict Peer review [beoordeling door vakgenoten] They were less likely to commit fraud. Scientists who felt compelled to perform due to publication pressures or the need to secure new funding were more likely to be guilty of questionable research practices. Men and people early in their careers also admitted to making mistakes relatively often.
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“Maybe it’s not all so amazing, but it’s the first time this project has been built in this way,” says Putter. “Please note: these are associations. Our research doesn’t prove cause and effect. So it’s not said if you turn the post pressure knob as people experience it, then This behavior decreases immediately. The impact of such phenomena is complex.”
The study of inappropriate behavior
Potter and his team sent out surveys to employees of 22 Dutch universities and university medical centers. In it, questions were raised about scientifically incorrect behavior and the factors that can influence it. Only eight institutions actively cooperated by providing email addresses and promoting engagement, while the researchers collected the addresses themselves for the other 14. In total, more than 63,778 questionnaires were sent. Potter: “At the eight organizations actively participating, the response was more than 21 percent. We can’t make any statements about the other fourteen, because we don’t know how accurate our set of email addresses is.”
Strictly speaking, Bauter stresses that the study results only say something about the participants and not about Dutch science as a whole, but he is confident in the quality and representation of his data. “The response rate is similar to similar studies abroad, and in absolute numbers I am not aware of any research on this topic internationally that is greater.”
Participants were allowed to answer the most sensitive questions using the . method random response Potter says it’s called, which offers a strong guarantee of anonymity. This technique is also used in investigations of doping in sports and abuse of Social Security. This results in a two to three times higher percentage of people admitting to breaking the rules. Thus, our 8 percent is much closer to reality than if we had looked at this in a conventional way.”
But isn’t it conceivable that many of the scientists who didn’t fill out the survey didn’t because they had to admit something – and that the numbers are higher in real life? Potter: “It could be so, but we don’t know. In any case, it wouldn’t be much less, because I can’t imagine the respondents having admitted mistakes they weren’t guilty of.”
A version of this article also appeared on NRC on the morning of July 9, 2021