Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 437–461

The Perverse Effects of Competition on Scientists’ Work and Relationships


    • Department of Educational Policy and AdministrationUniversity of Minnesota
  • Emily A. Ronning
    • Department of Educational Policy and AdministrationUniversity of Minnesota
  • Raymond De Vries
    • University of Michigan
  • Brian C. Martinson
    • HealthPartners Research Foundation
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11948-007-9042-5

Cite this article as:
Anderson, M.S., Ronning, E.A., De Vries, R. et al. Sci Eng Ethics (2007) 13: 437. doi:10.1007/s11948-007-9042-5


Competition among scientists for funding, positions and prestige, among other things, is often seen as a salutary driving force in U.S. science. Its effects on scientists, their work and their relationships are seldom considered. Focus-group discussions with 51 mid- and early-career scientists, on which this study is based, reveal a dark side of competition in science. According to these scientists, competition contributes to strategic game-playing in science, a decline in free and open sharing of information and methods, sabotage of others’ ability to use one’s work, interference with peer-review processes, deformation of relationships, and careless or questionable research conduct. When competition is pervasive, such effects may jeopardize the progress, efficiency and integrity of science.


CompetitionMisconductResearch integrityEthics in science

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007