Evidence Suggests Standard Research Ethics Instruction May Make Behavior Worse
A growing body of evidence suggests that standard RCR (responsible conduct of research) instruction does not prevent wrongdoing or improve behavior or ethical reasoning—in fact, it may make behavior worse.
Antes and colleagues1 tested participants who were enrolled in 40 different RCR courses. They found that ethical decision making did not improve. In fact, participants’ business decisions got worse, and they were less likely to seek help or consider others’ perspectives. They were also more likely to support inappropriate responses, such as deception and retaliation.
Anderson and colleagues received surveys from nearly 1500 early-career scientists and found that training in research ethics was positively associated with problematic behavior surrounding data.(2)
Kornfeld examined Office of Research Integrity reports on 146 individuals found guilty of research misconduct. He determined that “these acts of misconduct were the results of individual psychological traits and the circumstances in which the researchers found themselves.
Therefore, a course in research misconduct, such as is now federally mandated, should not be expected to have a significant effect.”3 The P.I. Program is based on a fundamentally different model of fostering professionalism in research. We draw from the best available data in the fields of cognitive, social, and organizational psychology to help researchers operate professionally in today’s complex environments.
- Antes AL, Wang X, Mumford MD, Brown RP, Connelly S, Devenport LD. Evaluating the effects that existing instruction on responsibility conduct of research has on ethical decision making. Academic Medicine. 2010;85(3):519-526.
- Anderson MS, Horn AS, Risbey KR, Ronning EA, De Vries R, Martinson BC. What do mentoring and training in the responsible conduct of research have to do with scientists’ misbehavior? Findings from a national survey of NIH-funded scientists. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Sep 2007;82(9):853-860.
- Kornfeld DS. Perspective: Research Misconduct: The Search for a Remedy. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Jul 2012;87(7):877-882.