The perverse effects of competition on scientists' work and relationships

Sci Eng Ethics. 2007 Dec;13(4):437-61. doi: 10.1007/s11948-007-9042-5. Epub 2007 Nov 21.


Competition among scientists for funding, positions and prestige, among other things, is often seen as a salutary driving force in U.S. science. Its effects on scientists, their work and their relationships are seldom considered. Focus-group discussions with 51 mid- and early-career scientists, on which this study is based, reveal a dark side of competition in science. According to these scientists, competition contributes to strategic game-playing in science, a decline in free and open sharing of information and methods, sabotage of others' ability to use one's work, interference with peer-review processes, deformation of relationships, and careless or questionable research conduct. When competition is pervasive, such effects may jeopardize the progress, efficiency and integrity of science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Competitive Behavior* / ethics
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations* / ethics
  • Research Personnel / ethics
  • Research Personnel / psychology*
  • Scientific Misconduct*