Anderson, Christopher. "Survey Tracks Misconduct, to an Extent," Science 262 (19 November

 

Anderson, Christopher. "Survey Tracks Misconduct, to an Extent," Science 262 (19 November
1993), pp. 1203-1204.

This is a brief recap of the Acadia Institute's recent report in American Scientist with criticisms
of it, a justification, perhaps of this journal's rejection of the original article. Thus, reports at
research institutions may have been reporting the same case of misconduct in their reports to the
survey. Even more important: this was a study of "perceptions" of misconduct rather than
misconduct itself. Indeed, Drummond Rennie is quoted here "I'm strongly in favor of getting
some figures on this... But there are huge holes in how they did it." (p. 1203)

Koshland, who has previously explained his rejection of the article has it that the article was
rejected because "it did not have the scientific content and methodology appropriate" for Science.
He continues, "If it had been a better paper it would have been accepted." He suggests that
Science is, of course, interested in this problem.

Marcel Lafollette, on the other hand, who is reported to have reviewed the institute's grant
application at NSF, which funded the study, is predictably impressed by the results.

"Although there is debate about the absolute numbers, few observers are surprised by the study's
overall finding that uncollegial and inappropriate conduct such as sexual harassment and
improper assignment of authorship credit are more common that outright fraud and plagiarism.
"‘It's commonsensical that the incidence of jerkery is higher than crookery,' says Rennie. If one
nevertheless assumes that ‘jerkery' can lead to ‘crookery' - as the Acadia authors do - the study
could play an important role in helping define the dimensions of the ethics problem on campus,
he says. ‘But I just wish they'd made a stronger case.'

"Rennie believes the questions of prevalence will remain unanswered until scientists themselves
conduct a one-time, confidential audit of the research community. Although the idea was roundly
condemned as overly intrusive he first proposed it several years ago, there seems to be growing
interest in using something better than a survey to obtain reliable data on this slippery question."
(p. 1204)