Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 1697–1717 | Cite as

Scientists Still Behaving Badly? A Survey Within Industry and Universities

  • Simon GodecharleEmail author
  • Steffen Fieuws
  • Ben Nemery
  • Kris Dierickx
Original Paper


Little is known about research misconduct within industry and how it compares to universities, even though a lot of biomedical research is performed by–or in collaboration with–commercial entities. Therefore, we sent an e-mail invitation to participate in an anonymous computer-based survey to all university researchers having received a biomedical research grant or scholarship from one of the two national academic research funders of Belgium between 2010 and 2014, and to researchers working in large biomedical companies or spin-offs in Belgium. The validated survey included questions about various types of research misconduct committed by respondents themselves and observed among their colleagues in the last three years. Prevalences of misconduct were compared between university and industry respondents using binary logistic regression models, with adjustments for relevant personal characteristics, and with significance being accepted for p < 0.01. The survey was sent to 1766 people within universities and an estimated 255 people from industry. Response rates were 43 (767/1766) and 48% (123/255), and usable information was available for 617 and 100 respondents, respectively. In general, research misconduct was less likely to be reported by industry respondents compared to university respondents. Significant differences were apparent for one admitted action (gift authorship) and three observed actions (plagiarism, gift authorship, and circumventing animal-subjects research requirements), always with lower prevalences for industry compared to universities, except for plagiarism. This survey, based on anonymous self-report, shows that research misconduct occurs to a substantial degree among biomedical researchers from both industry and universities.


Research integrity Research misconduct Industry Universities 



This research was funded by Research Foundation—Flanders (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek–Vlaanderen) Ph.D. Fellowship: 11U8214 N. We thank Dr. de Vries one of the authors of the original USA survey11 for helping in the process of updating and processing.


This research was funded by Research Foundation—Flanders (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek–Vlaanderen), Ph.D. Fellowship: 11U8214 N.

Author Contribution

BN and KD contributed to the study design, the elaboration of the manuscript, and supervised the research. Statistical analyses were performed by SF. SG contacted the organizations involved, performed the validation of the survey and the pilot study, performed the study and wrote the first and successive drafts of the manuscript. All authors approved the final version.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11948_2017_9957_MOESM1_ESM.docx (29 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 28 kb)
11948_2017_9957_MOESM2_ESM.docx (29 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 29 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Godecharle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steffen Fieuws
    • 2
  • Ben Nemery
    • 3
  • Kris Dierickx
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, Department of Public Health and Primary CareUniversity of LeuvenLouvainBelgium
  2. 2.Leuven Biostatistics and Statistical Bioinformatics Centre (L-BioStat), Department of Public Health and Primary CareUniversity of LeuvenLouvainBelgium
  3. 3.Centre for Environment and Health, Department of Public Health and Primary CareUniversity of LeuvenLouvainBelgium

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