Men Cheat More Often

Male scientists commit research misconduct more often than their female peers, and senior researchers are more likely to engage in fraud than trainees.

By | January 22, 2013

FLICKR, PLAXCO LABMales are overrepresented among life scientists found guilty of committing research misconduct, according to a study published today (January 22) in mBio. The report also revealed that the majority of misconduct cases involve faculty members and other senior researchers, challenging the common perception that young scientists are more likely to transgress in a bid to advance their fledgling careers.

“Not only are men committing more research misconduct,” said co-author Joan Bennett of Rutgers University, in a press release, “senior men are most likely to do so.”

To get a better idea of the profile of the scientists who cheat, Bennett and her colleagues looked at the gender and career stage of 228 individuals found guilty of research misconduct—the vast majority of which consisted of data fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism—by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) between 1994 and late 2012. They found that 65 percent of the guilty scientists were men—a figure that exceeds their overall representation in the scientific community—and that male professors accounted for 88 percent of fraud committed by faculty, again greater than expected given that men represent roughly 70 percent of faculty in the life sciences.

In terms of seniority, the analysis revealed that faculty members and other senior research personnel are responsible for 60 percent of the misconduct identified by the ORI, whereas students and postdocs were responsible for 40 percent of cases. The authors wrote that this suggests the National Institutes of Health, which currently targets trainee scientists for training in ethics and responsible conduct, should also focus such efforts on senior scientists.

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Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 18

January 22, 2013

Well, that suggests that women don't commit serious misconduct. They do.  And I'm not so sure that women do it less. In my observation the way that women do it is more covert and manipulative, that's all. 

For instance, the department chair at a major university got three major papers published based on data manufactured from whole cloth. The way she commits fraud is to construct situations where the only way out for a post-doc is to fake data. The one thing she does that is overt is when someone comes to her with proof of the fraud she listens, tells them she will look into it, then tries to run them out of the university. One grad student who received that treatment in her lab has left science and is now an alcoholic. 

The post-doc who committed a huge fraud is now installed in a plum professorship courtesy of strings that she pulled. He's not going to talk. And so it is that honesty is systematically driven out of in favor of conmen. 

Her form of fraud is typical of how women commit misconduct. Instead of doing it directly, they create situations that coerce others into doing it for them. I submit that women in science are on the whole more socially astute than the men in science are. Women are, in general, more perceptive of social cues and are usually better at estimating how someone will react to pressures and enticements of various kinds. Enticement and covert pressure are a woman's stock in trade. It's just biology. A woman will rarely leave a smoking gun behind, she will be as careful as if she is having an affair on the side. She will never say anything incriminating of herself, not even to her own family. 

Such a woman will put her name on the paper, and defend her post-doc. Such a woman did just that. She has perfect plausible deniability if anything ever does come to light. Her post-doc has powerful motivation to support her. He has sold his soul for career advancement he doesn't deserve.

She has the option to dump him and feed him to the dogs to protect herself. 


That's how a woman commits misconduct. 


Avatar of: BobD


Posts: 20

January 23, 2013

You would be hard-pressed to find a study of any kind of anti-social or criminal behavior where males are not the predominant sex, so why should scientific fraud be any different?  With respect to senior scientists vs. junior ones, senior scientists have a greater opportunity to be named on a research paper than junior ones, fraudulent or not.  Did the study correct for frauds committed per opportunity?

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