Prevalence of Research Misconduct and Questionable Research Practices: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Sci Eng Ethics. 2021 Jun 29;27(4):41. doi: 10.1007/s11948-021-00314-9.


Irresponsible research practices damaging the value of science has been an increasing concern among researchers, but previous work failed to estimate the prevalence of all forms of irresponsible research behavior. Additionally, these analyses have not included articles published in the last decade from 2011 to 2020. This meta-analysis provides an updated meta-analysis that calculates the pooled estimates of research misconduct (RM) and questionable research practices (QRPs), and explores the factors associated with the prevalence of these issues. The estimates, committing RM concern at least 1 of FFP (falsification, fabrication, plagiarism) and (unspecified) QRPs concern 1 or more QRPs, were 2.9% (95% CI 2.1-3.8%) and 12.5% (95% CI 10.5-14.7%), respectively. In addition, 15.5% (95% CI 12.4-19.2%) of researchers witnessed others who had committed at least 1 RM, while 39.7% (95% CI 35.6-44.0%) were aware of others who had used at least 1 QRP. The results document that response proportion, limited recall period, career level, disciplinary background and locations all affect significantly the prevalence of these issues. This meta-analysis addresses a gap in existing meta-analyses and estimates the prevalence of all forms of RM and QRPs, thus providing a better understanding of irresponsible research behaviors.

Keywords: Meta-analysis; Questionable research practices; Research integrity; Research misconduct.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Research
  • Humans
  • Plagiarism
  • Prevalence
  • Research Personnel
  • Scientific Misconduct*