Why Are Male Scientists More Likely to Commit Fraud?


Male scientists — both students and high-ranking professors — are way more likely to succumb to pressure and make shit up in the lab, according to new analysis.

In a new study published today in mBio, scientists looked at 228 cases of misconduct from the records of the United States Office of Research Integrity (ORI). At least 2,047 biomedical and life science studies had been retracted by the journals that published them as of May 2012, because of fraud, plagiarism, or “duplicate publication.” (Which LiveScience calls “double-dipping” to get a paper published twice.) The vast majority of the fraudsters were male:

Another key finding was the gender schism in fraud. Even given that men outnumber women in the upper echelons of science, males committed more of the fraud than would be expected. The gap appeared on every rung of the career ladder given the relative proportion of men and women at each step.
Among research staff, 43 percent of those committing misconduct were male. Among students, men made up 58 percent of transgressors. That number rose to 69 percent among postdoctoral researchers and to 88 percent of faculty.
Among the 72 faculty members who committed fraud, only nine were female, the researchers found. That’s one-third of what would be expected if the genders were committing fraud at the same rates.

Researchers aren’t sure why men are more prone to cheating — they ventured that maybe it’s because men are more likely to take risks, or perhaps women are simply better at not getting caught. Regardless, researchers think increasing fraudulence is a result of stiffer competition for research funding, jobs and scientific awards. Perhaps it’s possible that women, already outnumbered in the field, have too much at stake to fuck around with facts?


Image via vonzolomonShutterstock.

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