Measuring the prevalence of questionable research practices with incentives for truth telling

Psychol Sci. 2012 May 1;23(5):524-32. doi: 10.1177/0956797611430953. Epub 2012 Apr 16.


Cases of clear scientific misconduct have received significant media attention recently, but less flagrantly questionable research practices may be more prevalent and, ultimately, more damaging to the academic enterprise. Using an anonymous elicitation format supplemented by incentives for honest reporting, we surveyed over 2,000 psychologists about their involvement in questionable research practices. The impact of truth-telling incentives on self-admissions of questionable research practices was positive, and this impact was greater for practices that respondents judged to be less defensible. Combining three different estimation methods, we found that the percentage of respondents who have engaged in questionable practices was surprisingly high. This finding suggests that some questionable practices may constitute the prevailing research norm.

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Psychology / standards*
  • Research / standards*
  • Scientific Misconduct / statistics & numerical data*
  • Truth Disclosure*