Researcher Admit to Being More Honest: Here are the Surprising Facts They Hide from You!

rasyiqi By rasyiqi - Writer, Digital Marketer
5 Min Read
woman in white medical scrub
Photo by Diane Serik on Unsplash

Research is one of the most important and beneficial activities in the world of science. However, not all researchers uphold high ethical standards in their research endeavors.

In fact, many researchers tend to consider themselves more honest and virtuous than their peers in the same field or in other fields. Are you one of them?

A new study conducted by researchers at Linköping University, Sweden, indicates that on average, researchers believe they are better than their colleagues at adhering to good research practices.

They also believe that their research field is superior to others in terms of research ethics. The results of this study suggest a risk of becoming blind to one’s own shortcomings, according to the Linköping researchers.

- Advertisement -

The study involved over 33,000 Swedish researchers who were surveyed through questionnaires. The questions asked were based on the Swedish Research Council’s rules regarding what constitutes good research practices.

For example, researchers should always tell the truth about their research and consistently present the premises, methods, and results of a study openly.

Participants were asked to answer two questions: How well do you think you follow good research practices compared to colleagues in the same research field? And how well do you think your research field follows good research practices compared to other research fields?

The questionnaire was sent to all researchers and doctoral students working in Swedish universities. More than 11,000 responses were received.

Responses had to be given on a seven-point scale where four equals “average.” The results of this study have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

- Advertisement -

It turns out that almost all researchers consider themselves as good as or better than average, which is a statistical impossibility. “If everyone could see themselves objectively, there should be an even distribution around the middle,” said Gustav Tinghög, a professor of economics at the Department of Management and Engineering.

Most—55 percent—stated that they were as good as most other people in adhering to good research practices. 44 percent believed they were better. Only 1 percent thought they were worse.

On questions about practices in their own research field, 63 percent said they were as good as most others, 29 percent said they were better, and 8 percent said they were worse.

- Advertisement -

All research fields showed similar overestimations of their own honesty, although the effect was most pronounced for researchers in the medical field.

According to the Linköping researchers, the results of this study indicate that researchers as a group often overstate their own ethical behavior. And this overestimation also extends to their own research fields in general. This inaccuracy is rarely scandalous, but it is more related to daily procedures, how results are shared, and data reporting.

“Small steps can add up, potentially leading to worse steps,” said Amanda Lindkvist, a doctoral student.

In addition to the risk of becoming blind to their own shortcomings, the belief that one’s own research field is better in research ethics than others can also lead to polarization in the research world. This makes interdisciplinary collaboration between research fields more difficult, according to the Linköping researchers.

Of course, it cannot be completely ignored that most researchers who answered the questionnaire are researchers with high ethics, but it is unlikely that this would affect the results of how researchers view their own research fields, according to the researchers.

Essentially, this study shows that researchers are not immune to the psychological processes that affect everyone, namely our tendency to believe the best about ourselves and to explain away anything that contradicts our self-image.

“Every day, researchers face dilemmas: should I do what benefits me or what benefits science? In a world like this, it is important to constantly look at yourself in the mirror and adjust your research ethics compass,” said Gustav Tinghög.

Share This Article