Scientific Misconduct and the Myth of Self-Correction in Science

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2012 Nov;7(6):670-88. doi: 10.1177/1745691612460687.


The recent Stapel fraud case came as a shattering blow to the scientific community of psychologists and damaged both their image in the media and their collective self-esteem. The field responded with suggestions of how fraud could be prevented. However, the Stapel fraud is only one among many cases. Before basing recommendations on one case, it would be informative to study other cases to assess how these frauds were discovered. The authors analyze a convenience sample of fraud cases to see whether (social) psychology is more susceptible to fraud than other disciplines. They also evaluate whether the peer review process and replications work well in practice to detect fraud. There is no evidence that psychology is more vulnerable to fraud than the biomedical sciences, and most frauds are detected through information from whistleblowers with inside information. On the basis of this analysis, the authors suggest a number of strategies that might reduce the risk of scientific fraud.

Keywords: fraud; peer review; replication; research integrity; scientific misconduct.