Measuring the Prevalence of Questionable Research Practices with Incentives for Truth-Telling

Psychological Science, Forthcoming

52 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2012 Last revised: 21 Jul 2012

Leslie K. John

Harvard Business School

George Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Drazen Prelec

MIT Sloan; MIT Department of Economics; MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Date Written: January 31, 2012

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Judgment, Professional standards, Research methods

JEL Classification: A00

Suggested Citation

John, Leslie K. and Loewenstein, George and Prelec, Drazen, Measuring the Prevalence of Questionable Research Practices with Incentives for Truth-Telling (January 31, 2012). Psychological Science, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1996631 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1996631

Leslie K. John (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

George F. Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8787 (Phone)
412-268-6938 (Fax)

Drazen Prelec

MIT Sloan ( email )

E40-161
MIT
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-2833 (Phone)

MIT Department of Economics ( email )

Department of Economics
E52-371
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences ( email )

43 Vassar Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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