Ethical Problems in Academic Research
A survey of doctoral candidates and faculty raises important questions about the ethical environment of graduate education and research
Overall, one can infer from our data that, although misconduct is
not rampant, examples of behavior that fall into the National
Academy’s definition of science-related misconduct (Category
1) are not rare. Between six and nine percent of both students and
faculty report that they have direct knowledge of faculty who have
plagiarized or falsified data (Figure 2). Faculty reports
of plagiarism and falsification by students are considerably higher;
nearly a third of faculty claim to have observed student plagiarism.
On a more positive note, most of those who reported examples of
plagiarism or falsification were aware of such misconduct by only
one or two people. At the same time, however, we believe there is
cause for concern in the finding that substantially higher
percentages of graduate students than faculty in all four
disciplines are believed to be engaging in these types of misconduct.
There were significant differences between disciplines in reported
knowledge of plagiarism (Figure 3). More than 40 percent of
faculty in civil engineering and sociology have detected plagiarism
among their graduate students. In civil engineering, 18 percent of
faculty have noted plagiarism by their colleagues, a significantly
higher proportion than in the other fields.
Exposure to data falsification (Figure 4) does not follow
a clear disciplinary pattern. At 10 percent, civil engineering
faculty report the highest level of "cooking" among their
colleagues, but 12 percent of microbiology students say that their
teachers have falsified data. Faculty report similar levels of
falsification among chemistry, civil engineering and microbiology
students, but sociologists report significantly less. Among the
students, chemistry doctoral students note the greatest exposure to
falsification by their peers (20 percent).