Measuring the Prevalence of Questionable Research Practices with Incentives for Truth-Telling
Leslie K. John
Harvard Business School
Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences
MIT Sloan; MIT Department of Economics; MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences
January 31, 2012
Psychological Science, Forthcoming
Cases of clear scientific misconduct have received significant media attention recently, but less flagrantly questionable research practices may be more prevalent and, ultimately, more damaging to the academic enterprise. Using an anonymous elicitation format supplemented by incentives for honest reporting, we surveyed over 2,000 psychologists about their involvement in questionable research practices. The impact of truth-telling incentives on self-admissions of questionable research practices was positive, and this impact was greater for practices that respondents judged to be less defensible. Combining three different estimation methods, we found that the percentage of respondents who
have engaged in questionable practices was surprisingly high. This finding suggests that some questionable practices may constitute the prevailing research norm.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 52
Keywords: Judgment, Professional standards, Research methods
JEL Classification: A00
Date posted: February 1, 2012 ; Last revised: July 21, 2012
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