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MBio. 2013 Mar 26;4(2). pii: e00156-13. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00156-13.

Are men more likely than women to commit scientific misconduct? Maybe, maybe not.


In their study published in January 2013 in mBio, Fang et al. reviewed records from the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and found more cases of scientific misconduct committed by men than women, particularly by faculty (F. C. Fang, J. W. Bennett, and A. Casadevall, mBio 4:1-3, 2013). Powerful social norms shape the way men and women behave, and implicit gender schemas can lead to different evaluation standards for men and women for tasks stereotypically linked to one gender. It is possible that norms for acceptable male and female behavior could lead to a lower threshold for men than women to engage in the risky behavior of scientific misconduct. It is also possible that women and men commit scientific fraud at the same rate but that, because crime is a male-gendered domain, evaluators require more proof of the criminal "competence" of women for an investigation to rise to the level of an ORI case or that female gender norms for likeability and a lower apology threshold more often prevent escalation of women's fraud beyond a local level. Male scientists also have more opportunity to commit fraud than female scientists because they receive more NIH research funding--a finding that may also be influenced by gender schemas. We cannot conclude from the ORI data that men are more likely than women to risk the consequences of committing scientific misconduct simply because risk taking aligns with male gender stereotypes. Neither can we conclude that because men are more likely than women to commit fraud in other contexts, men are also more likely than women to commit scientific fraud. We can conclude, however, that scientific misconduct, regardless of who commits it, diminishes all who contribute to the scientific enterprise.

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