Study Finds Men Cheat More Than Women When It Comes To Science
January 22, 2013

Study Finds Men Cheat More Than Women When It Comes To Science

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

A new study set to be published in the online journal mBio today claims that, statistically, men can´t be trusted when it comes to scientific research.

According to research from Rutgers University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, male researchers are more likely to commit scientific fraud than their female counterparts. What´s more, this misconduct occurs at each rung of the professional ladder and gets worse the higher a man climbs through the ranks of professional development.

“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,” Dr. Arturo Casadevall, professor and chair of microbiology & immunology and professor of medicine at Einstein, and senior author of the paper, said in a statement.

Co-author Joan W. Bennett has backed up Dr. Casadevall´s claims, ensuring that the male lead author didn´t engage in his own research misconduct.

Together, Dr. Casadevall and Ms. Bennett studied data from the US Office of Research Integrity, an organization which handles allegations of this kind of misconduct. As a definition, the Office of Research Integrity considers “Misconduct” as fabrication or falsification of information as well as plagiarism.

According to the Office of Research Integrity data, some 227 individuals have conducted some sort of scientific misconduct since 1994. Of these, 66% were male; a number which Dr. Casadevall, Bennett and colleagues claim is especially high for a profession full of men. These men make up 70% of all Life Science faculty, and of all those who committed misconduct, 88% were men.

“When you look at the numbers, you see that the problem of misconduct carries through the entire career of scientists,” explained Dr. Casadevall. “Those numbers are very lopsided when you look at faculty. You can imagine people would take these risks when people are going up the ladder.”

According to their research, these men were more likely to cheat, lie and steal once they reached “faculty” status. Dr. Casadevall said before the research was complete, he assumed those men at the bottom of the ranks would be more likely to cheat than those at the top.

Of those found to have committed scientific misconduct, 88% were male faculty members; 69% were male postdoctoral fellows, 58% were simple students, and 43% were considered “other.”

Dr. Casadevall said that the number of cheating men was surprisingly higher than would have been predicted based on gender distribution.

Ms. Bennett believes these senior men are more likely to cheat in order to ensure grants and other funding. She also claims that this kind of pressure to win at all costs not only pushes men to cheat, but also pushes women out of research.

“Many women are totally turned off by the maneuverings and starkly competitive way of the academic workplace,” claims Bennett. “Cheating on the system is just one of many factors that induce women to leave academe and seek professional careers in other environments.”

Though Dr. Casadevall and Ms. Bennett have their own ideas as to why men are more likely to cheat, they´re leaving the explanation of such behavior to other scientists.

“Right now we target trainees for ethics training,” said Dr. Casadevall. “We don´t do anything after they are hired. It might help if universities required refresher courses in ethics, as they do with courses to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. It won´t stop all misconduct, but it´s one place to start.”