The Perverse Effects of Competition on Scientists’ Work and Relationships

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Research on Research Integrity Program, a collaborative program between the Office of Research Integrity and the National Institutes of Health, grant #R01-NR08090. Raymond De Vries’ work was also supported by grant #K01-AT000054-01 (NIH, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine).

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Correspondence to Melissa S. Anderson.

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Anderson, M.S., Ronning, E.A., De Vries, R. et al. The Perverse Effects of Competition on Scientists’ Work and Relationships. Sci Eng Ethics 13, 437–461 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-007-9042-5

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Keywords

  • Competition
  • Misconduct
  • Research integrity
  • Ethics in science