An analysis of professional misconduct co-led by a researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York has been published in the online journal mBio.
"The fact that misconduct occurs across all stages of career development suggests that attention to ethical aspects of scientific conduct should not be limited to those in training, as is the current practice," said senior author Arturo Casadevall, a professor of microbiology, immunology and medicine at Einstein.
"Our other finding -- that males are overrepresented among those committing misconduct -- implies a gender difference we need to better understand in any effort to promote the integrity of research," said Casadevall, who is also editor in chief of mBio.
In a previous study, Casadevall found misconduct is responsible for two-thirds of all retractions of scientific papers.
The new study reviewed 228 individual cases of misconduct reported by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity from 1994 through 2012.
An analysis determined fraud was involved in 215 of the 228 cases and overall 65 percent of the fraud cases were committed by males.
While the study did not examine why men are more likely to commit fraud, Casadevall said one possibility is that misconduct may be biologically driven.
"As research has shown, males tend to be risk takers, more so than females, and to commit fraud entails taking a risk," he said.
"It may also be that males are more competitive, or that women are more sensitive to the threat of sanctions. I think the best answer is that we don't know. Now that we have documented the problem, we can begin a serious discussion about what is going on and what can be done about it."
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