Research Falsification in Accounting Literature: A Survey of the Most Prolific Researchers' Actions and Beliefs
Abacus, Vol. 37, No. 1, 2001
Posted: 17 Aug 1998 Last revised: 10 Dec 2012
Date Written: November 29, 2000
Incidents of research misconduct, especially falsification, in the hard sciences and medicine have been widely reported. Motives for misconduct include professional advancement and personal recognition. Accounting academics are under the same tenure, promotion, and recognition pressures as other academics; and, without the life-and-death issues of medical research, rationalizing misconduct in accounting research seems much easier. It is reasonable to assume that dishonesty has occurred, even if little evidence exists about its prevalence. Further, accounting research can influence tax policy and market conditions, affecting people’s lives. This study is, to our knowledge, the first attempt to survey accounting researchers directly as to their ethical practices; it uses the randomized response technique of addressing sensitive questions. To maximize its relevance to the most respected accounting research, this questionnaire was sent only to the most prolific researchers at US colleges and universities who have published in the “top 30” accounting journals. The results indicate that serious misconduct has occurred among these established accounting researchers. The estimated percentage of seriously tainted articles in the top 30 accounting journals, based on self-reporting, is about 4 percent, while the respondents on average believe that about 21 percent of the literature is tainted. Faculty who were tenured more recently provide higher estimates of the falsification rate, and attribute more of the cause to external factors like tenure pressure. The paper concludes by discussing implications and offering policy recommendations.
JEL Classification: M41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation