Article | Psychological Science | May 2012

Measuring the Prevalence of Questionable Research Practices with Incentives for Truth-telling

by Leslie K. John, George Loewenstein and Drazen Prelec


Cases of clear scientific misconduct have received significant media attention recently, but less flagrant transgressions of research norms may be more prevalent and in the long run more damaging to the academic enterprise. We surveyed over 2,000 psychologists about their involvement in questionable research practices, using an anonymous elicitation format supplemented by incentives for honest reporting. The impact of incentives on admission rates was positive and greater for practices that respondents judge to be less defensible. Using three different estimation methods, we find that the proportion of respondents that have engaged in these practices is surprisingly high relative to respondents' own estimates of these proportions. Some questionable practices may constitute the prevailing research norm.

Keywords: Research; Practice; Motivation and Incentives; Surveys; Values and Beliefs; Measurement and Metrics;


John, Leslie K., George Loewenstein, and Drazen Prelec. "Measuring the Prevalence of Questionable Research Practices with Incentives for Truth-telling." Psychological Science 23, no. 5 (May 2012): 524–532.