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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Publish or Be Ethical? 2 Studies of Publishing Pressure & Scientific Misconduct in Research

Paruzel-Czachura M, Baran L, & Spendel Z. 
Research Ethics. December 2020. 


The paper reports two studies exploring the relationship between scholars’ self-reported publication pressure and their self-reported scientific misconduct in research. In Study 1 the participants (N = 423) were scholars representing various disciplines from one big university in Poland. In Study 2 the participants (N = 31) were exclusively members of the management, such as dean, director, etc. from the same university. In Study 1 the most common reported form of scientific misconduct was honorary authorship. The majority of researchers (71%) reported that they had not violated ethical standards in the past; 3% admitted to scientific misconduct; 51% reported being were aware of colleagues’ scientific misconduct. A small positive correlation between perceived publication pressure and intention to engage in scientific misconduct in the future was found. In Study 2 more than half of the management (52%) reported being aware of researchers’ dishonest practices, the most frequent one of these being honorary authorship. As many as 71% of the participants report observing publication pressure in their subordinates. The primary conclusions are: (1) most scholars are convinced of their morality and predict that they will behave morally in the future; (2) scientific misconduct, particularly minor offenses such as honorary authorship, is frequently observed both by researchers (particularly in their colleagues) and by their managers; (3) researchers experiencing publication pressure report a willingness to engage in scientific misconduct in the future.


Our findings suggest that the notion of “publish or be ethical?” may constitute a real dilemma for the researchers. Although only 3% of our sample admitted to having engaged in scientific misconduct, 71% reported that they definitely had not violated ethical standards in the past. Furthermore, more than a half (51%) reported seeing scientific misconduct among their colleagues. We did not find a correlation between unsatisfactory work conditions and scientific misconduct, but we did find evidence to support the theory that perceived pressure to collect points is correlated with willingness to exceed ethical standards in the future.