In November 2012 Perspectives on Psychological Science published a fascinating article, ‘Scientific Misconduct and the Myth of Self-Correction in Science.’
Authored by Wolfgang Stroebe, Tom Postmes and Russell Spears, the piece examines whether psychology is more vulnerable to research fraud than the biomedical sciences and explore the effectiveness of self-correcting mechanisms in research. It studies a number of cases of research misconduct, including that of the respected social psychologist Diederik Stapel, who has admitted to research fraud including the fabrication and falsification of data.
The research did not find that psychology is more vulnerable to research fraud than other disciplines. However, the researchers argue that scientific research cannot be regarded as self- correcting: research fraud will not inevitably be discovered and rejected. Reasons for the reported failure of self- correction revolve around the difficulties of establishing the perpetrator when there are multiple authors and the expectation among scientists that colleagues will act with integrity.
The report states that whistleblowers are central to detecting cases of research fraud and must be effectively supported. It concludes by advocating greater transparency in public access to data and the strengthening of prevention and detection mechanisms.
Project Officer, UKRIO