Men more likely than women to commit scientific fraud

Michael Cook
27 Jan 2013
Reproduced with Permission

Male scientists are far more likely to commit fraud than females, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have claimed. And there is no difference whether a scientist is beginning his career or has tenure.

Professor Arturo Casadevall says that this shows that more attention should be given to gender differences in promoting the integrity of research.

Fraud or other forms of misconduct account for two-thirds of all retractions of scientific papers.

Overall, 65% of the fraud cases studied by Dr Casedevall's team were committed by males, but the percentage varied among the academic ranks: 88% of faculty members who committed misconduct were male, compared with 69% of postdoctoral fellows, 58% of students, and 43% 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 .

Misconduct was spread 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."

What science needs is regular ethics refresher courses for everyone. "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."