Scientists Still Behaving Badly? A Survey Within Industry and Universities

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

Funding

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

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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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Simon Godecharle.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Godecharle, S., Fieuws, S., Nemery, B. et al. Scientists Still Behaving Badly? A Survey Within Industry and Universities. Sci Eng Ethics 24, 1697–1717 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-017-9957-4

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Keywords

  • Research integrity
  • Research misconduct
  • Industry
  • Universities