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RESPONSIBLE SCIENCE: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process
be. As to the causes of deviant behavior, the authors concluded that “in the debate between those who favor individualistic explanations based on psychological notions of emotional disturbance, and the critics of big science who blame the increased pressures for promotion, tenure, and recognition through publications, one tends to see greater merit in the latter” (p. 244). They suggested that further systematic examination is required to determine the appropriate balance between individual and structural sources of deviant behavior.
Sigma Xi Study. As part of a broader survey it conducted in 1988, Sigma Xi, the honor society for scientific researchers in North America, asked its members to respond to the following statement: “Excluding gross stupidities and/or minor slip ups that can be charitably dismissed (but not condoned), I have direct knowledge of fraud (e.g., falsifying data, misreporting results, plagiarism) on the part of a professional scientist.”13
Respondents were asked to rank their agreement or disagreement with the statement on a five-point scale. The survey was mailed to 9,998 members of the society; about 38 percent responded (which indicates a possible source of bias).
Although 19 percent of the Sigma Xi respondents indicated that they had direct knowledge of fraud by a scientist, it is not certain from the survey whether direct knowledge meant personal experience with or simply awareness of scientific fraud. It is also possible that some respondents were referring to identical cases, and respondents may have reported knowledge of cases gained secondhand. Furthermore, it is not clear what information can be gained by having respondents rank “direct knowledge” on a five-point scale of agreement and disagreement.
Additional Information. Estimates about the incidence of misconduct in science have ranged from editorial statements that the scientific literature is “99.9999 percent pure” to reader surveys published in scientific journals indicating that significant numbers of the respondents have had direct experience with misconduct of some sort in science.14 The broad variance in these estimates has not resolved uncertainties about the frequency with which individuals or institutions actually encounter incidents of misconduct in science.
In March 1990, the NSF's OIG reported that, based on a comprehensive review of the results from past surveys that attempted to measure the incidence of misconduct in science, “the full extent of misconduct is not yet known” (NSF, 1990d, p. 9). The NSF reports found that only a few quantitative studies have examined the extent of misconduct in science and that prior survey efforts had poor