Professional Decision-Making in Research (PDR): The Validity of a New Measure

Sci Eng Ethics. 2016 Apr;22(2):391-416. doi: 10.1007/s11948-015-9667-8. Epub 2015 Jun 14.


In this paper, we report on the development and validity of the Professional Decision-Making in Research (PDR) measure, a vignette-based test that examines decision-making strategies used by investigators when confronted with challenging situations in the context of empirical research. The PDR was administered online with a battery of validity measures to a group of NIH-funded researchers and research trainees who were diverse in terms of age, years of experience, types of research, and race. The PDR demonstrated adequate reliability (alpha = .84) and parallel form correlation (r = .70). As hypothesized, the PDR was significantly negatively correlated with narcissism, cynicism, moral disengagement, and compliance disengagement; it was not correlated with socially desirable responding. In regression analysis, the strongest predictors of higher PDR scores were low compliance disengagement, speaking English as a native language, conducting clinical research with human subjects, and low levels of narcissism. Given that the PDR was written at an eighth grade reading level to be suitable for use with English as a second language participants and that only one-fourth of items focused on clinical research, further research into the possible roles of culture and research ethics training across specialties is warranted. This initial validity study demonstrates the potential usefulness of the PDR as an educational outcome assessment measure and a research instrument for studies on professionalism and integrity in research.

Keywords: Assessment; Educational; Measurement; Professionalism; Research ethics; Research integrity; Responsible conduct of research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomedical Research / ethics
  • Culture
  • Decision Making / ethics*
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morals
  • Narcissism
  • Personality
  • Problem Solving / ethics*
  • Professionalism*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design
  • Research Personnel / education
  • Research Personnel / ethics*
  • Science / ethics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Young Adult