Male scientists commit more fraud than women

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Men, and particularly senior men, are more likely to commit scientific fraud than women, say researchers - who we have to hope we can trust on the matter.

While men represent about 70 percent of faculty in the life sciences, for example, 88 percent of those who committed misconduct were male.

The researchers reviewed 228 individual cases of misconduct reported by the United States Office of Research Integrity (ORI) from 1994 through 2012. And, they found, fraud was involved in 94 percent of cases.

Overall, 65 percent of the fraud cases were committed by males, but the percentage varied among the academic ranks: 88 percent of faculty members who committed misconduct were male, compared with 69 percent of postdoctoral fellows, 58 percent of students, and 43 percent of other research personnel.

In each career category, the proportion of males committing misconduct was greater than you'd expect from the gender distribution of scientists.

"Not only are men committing more research misconduct," says Joan W. Bennett of Rutgers University, a co-author on the study. "Senior men are most likely to do so."

The team can't say just why men are more likely to behave badly, but suggest it could be due to their known propensity to take more risks than women and break rules in other ways too. In the US, for instance, 88 percent of perpetrators in homicides are male, and men represent about 63 percent of accidental deaths.

"As research has shown, males tend to be risk takers, more so than females, and to commit fraud entails taking a risk," says Arturo Casadevall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.

"It may also be that males are more competitive, or that women are more sensitive to the threat of sanctions. I think the best answer is that we don't know. Now that we have documented the problem, we can begin a serious discussion about what is going on and what can be done about it."