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Science

Male Scientists More Prone To Misconduct 300

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-a-guy-thing dept.
sciencehabit writes "Male scientists — especially at the upper echelons of the profession — are far more likely than women to commit misconduct. That's the bottom line of a new analysis by three microbiologists of wrongdoing in the life sciences in the United States. Ferric Fang of the University of Washington, Seattle; Joan Bennett of Rutgers University; and Arturo Casadevall of Albert Einstein College of Medicine combed through misconduct reports on 228 people released by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) over the last 19 years. They then compared the gender balance — or imbalance, in this case — against the mix of male and female senior scientists and trainees to gauge whether misconduct was more prevalent among men. A remarkable 88% of faculty members who committed misconduct were men, or 63 out of 72 individuals. The number of women in that group was one-third of what one would expect based on female representation in the life sciences."
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Male Scientists More Prone To Misconduct

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  • by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:32PM (#42674417)

    Their conclusion: Men commit more misconduct.

    My conclusion: Women are sneakier at committing misconduct.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:43PM (#42674575)
      Boobs buy a lot of forgiveness.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:45PM (#42674597)

      Studies of marital infidelity suggest women are sneakier. They're no more faithful, but they don't get caught as much. Not having the irresistible urge to brag about wrongdoings to their friends at the bar/locker room probably helps.

      • by RoknrolZombie (2504888) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @07:05PM (#42674883)

        Studies of marital infidelity suggest women are sneakier. They're no more faithful, but they don't get caught as much. Not having the irresistible urge to brag about wrongdoings to their friends at the bar/locker room probably helps.

        That could be due to the husbands not being perceptive enough to notice as well. Instead of women being more sneaky, maybe men are just more oblivious.

        • Or that when you're not the one cheating, you trust your partner.

          It's only in retrospect that you can see how everything had one, simpler, explanation. It just didn't make sense at the time.

        • by Genda (560240) <mariet@got.nERDOSet minus math_god> on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @08:01PM (#42675519) Journal

          Actually, there are some excellent articles on primate behavior that suggest there are many reasons for infidelity among both sexes. Its not to hard to figure out why women are sneakier... think people, men outweigh women by 50% or more and have twice the muscle mass. If your spouse can kill you with their bare hands,you tend to unconsciously avoid circumstances where that behavior might be expressed. Duh! Many women are taught from an early age to marry a good provider, but when Mr. Oh My Gawd shows up... stuff happens. There used to be strong religious taboos and social morays that kept people faithful, but after the sexual revolution of the 60s and cheap and effective birth control, the gloves are now pretty much off.

          One growing answer has been polyamory or group marriage where a consenting group of people become all singing all dancing. This provides the members with sexual variety, while allowing group members natural strengths to empower the group and weaknesses being reinforced by other members. We still haven't gotten past jealousy and the idea of "Owning" our partners in this society, so don't expect that 50% divorce rate to improve anytime soon. There are however logical and even fascinating ways of people relating that may have real possibilities in the future.

          • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @08:59PM (#42676077) Homepage Journal

            social morays that kept people faithful

            I have this image of vicious eels guarding women's marital fidelity, ready to jump out and bite any unauthorized entrants where it hurts most. Not sure why you call them "social", though. Seems downright anti-social to me.

            The word you actually wanted is "moré" :-)

          • social morays that kept people faithful,

            What a wonderful concept, if only we were aquatic enough to take advantage of it. They're fascinating creatures, and any potential transgressor would have a rapid rethink at the thought of all those teeth tearing into their private flesh.

            Thank you, and well done!

          • Mates were taken by the best of the hunters and gatherers for thousands of generations before the cathode ray tube was available. Taken, by the males who could survive and provide. Nature saw fit that the male's predisposition to more muscle mass trumps the females primary responsibility as child-bearer ..... different advantages that magnified in a two parent family. Pre-civilized society, the man's physical advantage was a tremendous opportunity to dominate the weaker matriarch. Physically inferior, t
          • Yeah, right... (Score:4, Informative)

            by denzacar (181829) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @02:26AM (#42678037) Journal

            There used to be strong religious taboos and social morays that kept people faithful, but after the sexual revolution of the 60s and cheap and effective birth control, the gloves are now pretty much off.

            ...and the youngins used to respect their elders.

            Giacomo Casanova was a real guy, you know? [wikipedia.org]
            And the fact that the ten commandments have to mention infidelity TWICE, while murder only once, indicates how much of that was going around (and kept going around) WAY before "the 60s".

            Actually, there are some excellent articles on primate behavior that suggest there are many reasons for infidelity among both sexes. Its not to hard to figure out why women are sneakier... think people, men outweigh women by 50% or more and have twice the muscle mass. If your spouse can kill you with their bare hands,you tend to unconsciously avoid circumstances where that behavior might be expressed. Duh! Many women are taught from an early age to marry a good provider, but when Mr. Oh My Gawd shows up... stuff happens.

            Why go down to the biological level or even psychological level? Women ARE better at social interaction. That's it.
            Human relationships (including love triangles, rectangles etc.) are literally exactly that - any relationship between two or more individuals. [wikipedia.org]
            End of story.

          • There used to be strong religious taboos and social morays that kept people faithful, but after the sexual revolution of the 60s and cheap and effective birth control, the gloves are now pretty much off.

            Or, when Mr. Smith fooled around with his secretary and was caught by his wife, she didn't do much (except perhaps threaten to go stay at her mother's house for the weekend in protest) as divorcing the cheater wasn't a viable option. Women were told to be obedient wives and just go with what hubby said. Be

      • Plus, women generally don't argue about whose...um..."pub-lications"...are bigger, or where they have been.
    • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:57PM (#42674777)

      The same male predominance in crime statistics, (violent and non-violent) is found in nearly every country.

      Women commit 1/10th the amount of violent crimes that men do.
      Unless there are sneaky ways to murder people, I don't think your conclusion holds.

      • Well, in Canada a woman is almost as likely to murder her spouse as a man is.

        So it must be cleaning the maple syrup off the plates drives women nuts.

    • by Artraze (600366) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @07:02PM (#42674827)

      They aren't terribly specific on what exactly constitutes misconduct, but it seems to be correlated with retracted papers and bad science. Given this, I can't think sneakiness is really going to account for much. After all, no amount of sneakiness really makes up for flawed science because, well, that's the point of science ;). Of course, it could let them get away with bad science and not be accused of misconduct. That I don't know.

      But, as a simple musing, I wonder if this is because female scientists feel they are under greater scrutiny, while men have a more old-boys-club outlook that makes them less concerned that they'll get in trouble for misconduct.

    • I've encountered far more egomaniac male scientists than I have encountered egomaniac female scientists, despite knowing more female scientists. I suspect if you could find a way to more accurately separate out selfish scientists from non-selfish ones, you'd find that correlates much more with intentional misconduct than male/female.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      Their conclusion: Men commit more misconduct.

      My conclusion: Women are sneakier at committing misconduct.

      My question: what percentage of scientists are men?

    • My wife used to teach in a middle school all-girl's school. You wouldn't know if one girl had a problem with another girl even if you observed them closely. They'd look for all the world like the best of friends. Meanwhile, one girl would be effectively destroying the other girl.

      As a contrast, I have two boys. You always know if there's a problem between boys. You can spot the fighting/yelling from a mile away.

      So it wouldn't surprise me to hear that girls grow up to be better able to hide wrong doings

  • Misconduct (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:36PM (#42674475)

    How is this news? I mean, really: In every aspect of society, men are more aggressive and prone to antisocial behavior than women. The headline might as well be reading "Sky found to be blue, water wet." It might be interesting if it turned out that the ratios were significantly skewed only in scientific endeavors compared to the baseline, but I'm not seeing that here. I'm seeing someone study a sample from a specific subculture and realize that... it's just like a random sample from the general population. It isn't new or groundbreaking. It's simply confirmatory... extra empirical findings that support what's already established.

    • by Livius (318358)

      Exactly. I'm sure there's some value in finding more detailed statistics for the scientific community, but we already knew men are disproportionately represented in crime and high-risk activities in general.

    • I'm don't think what you are saying is proven. The article abstract states that 94% of the misconduct was fraud, not being aggressive or antisocial as you indicate. Is there a well established baseline of men being more fraudulent than women? I would agree with you that men are typically aggressive (thanks testosterone), but dishonest? I'm not sure it flies... It's worth taking a look at the social/demographic aspects of this. The authors are looking for a way to target academic fraud, and knowing who co
      • I'm don't think what you are saying is proven. The article abstract states that 94% of the misconduct was fraud, not being aggressive or antisocial as you indicate.

        That word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

        an.ti.so.cial adj.
        1. Shunning the society of others; not sociable.
        2. Hostile to or disruptive of the established social order; marked by or engaging in behavior that violates accepted mores: gangs engaging in vandalism and other antisocial behavior.
        3. Antagonistic toward or disrespectful of others; rude.

      • by mvdwege (243851)

        Why would you automatically assume the difference in fraudulent behaviour is tied to a biological mechanism? For sure testosterone has an influence on behaviour, but why implictly discount 'boys will be boys' and the 'old boys network'?

        Mart

    • Putting a figure on how much is news. I honestly would not have expected the figure to be 88%, which does seem skewed compared to baseline at first glance. That's like the violent crime gap, which is often state to be more significant than the nonviolent crime gap.

      Also I wouldn't be so sure without studying it that academic misconduct directly relates to aggressiveness.

  • I'm willing to bet that this discrepancy is more a factor of groups vs. individuals than male vs. female. Aka "peer pressure" aka "everyone is doing it" etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:38PM (#42674507)

    The opposite result would be unpublishable, and in an academic setting unspeakable. Can it be credible science if only one result was permissible?

    Posting as AC for the obvious reason.

  • I believe it. And I don't care. I would also not be surprised that a higher percentage of male athletes use steroids. Cheating is an unfortunate byproduct of being competitive (although maybe an evolutionarily advantageous one).

    It does piss me off though to see garbage like

    They then compared the gender balance — or imbalance, in this case

    in the summary.

    • Re:I believe it (Score:4, Informative)

      by ceoyoyo (59147) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:50PM (#42674663)

      The summary (and perhaps the article... I don't know, couldn't care less) is a study in sexism. It states the absolute percentage of male misconduct, not the rate. Then it uses the well known technique of stating the proportional change ("one-third of what one would expect") to make the difference seem really big.

      I certainly believe men are more prone to getting caught cheating in science. I think it's reasonable that they may even be more prone to doing it. But the summary reads like a cancer scare piece or a political message.

  • by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:43PM (#42674567)
    I interprit this as follows. Gender imbalance in a field increases the likelyhood that that the biased for gender contains low quality employees. These people would not have their job in a fair job market. Likewise the other gender will contain higher quality people who were able to overcome the gender bias with exceptional skills.
  • by HPHatecraft (2748003) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:47PM (#42674625)

    FTA

    The trend seems clear, but the authors did admit that "[w]e cannot exclude the possibility that females commit research misconduct as frequently as males but are less likely to be detected."

    I remember reading once that as a child Mao Tse-tung often witnessed his parents fight. He concluded the more effective tactics were the indirect ones used by his mother. These recollections lodged in his memory -- it is no mistake that the Art of War, of which many of the tactics described therein are predicated on deceptiveness, became the revolutionary army's bible.

  • That explains the gender pay gap and glass ceiling; it's easier to appear exceptional than to be exceptional, and one side is more willing to cheat :)
  • by detain (687995) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:51PM (#42674687) Homepage
    This seems like a horrible comparison considering there are only 16% females in the scientific industry compared to men. Not only that but this is collected from data of known misconduct. I could easily see a female as being more likely to get away with scientific misconduct and thus they would not even be represented in this comparison. Used http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=2264&page=5 [nap.edu] as reference for the 16% women scientist figure.
    • by detain (687995)
      Going back even farther to the starting point of the comparison, women made up only 3% of the industry (gradually growing to the current 16%).
  • A remarkable 88% of faculty members who committed misconduct were men, or 63 out of 72 individuals.

    Since the majority of the study consisted of men, they should normalize it based on the percentage of men in the study. Considering that only 72 individuals were examined, there isn't a scientific conclusion that can be drawn from this study.

    Since they didn't have enough females to make a male vs female comparison, they could have done it as "a percentage of scientists are prone to misconduct".

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      Unscientific study
      And the results are inconsistent as well. 100% of the men and 100% of the women who performed this study did not follow the scientific method and did not collect a significant sample set and yet still published the results. For shame!
  • by Zinho (17895) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:57PM (#42674765) Journal

    The summary and its linked article are both unclear as to what "misconduct" is being discussed. Fortunately, clarity is available through the original paper [asm.org]:

    . . . we found that misconduct is responsible for most retracted articles and that fraud or suspected fraud is the most common form of misconduct. Moreover, the incidence of retractions due to fraud is increasing, a trend that should be concerning to scientists and non-scientists alike.

    The study is looking into why scientific papers are being retracted and what trends there are in the retractions.

    It's too bad that the summary was so generic it could have meant anything from nosepicking to marital infidelity to fabricating data. This is an interesting topic, and it's sad that the frequency of fraudulent publications is increasing.

  • Risk adverse (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @06:59PM (#42674791)

    Did they correct for risk aversion? Not being adverse to cheating, but being adverse to entering a field where luck / risk plays a pretty big part in success which means more motivation for cheating?

    For example, lots more women in lib arts, where pretty much any result is acceptable. In the hard sciences, negative results are pretty much unacceptable, although in many ways they're just as important as positive results.

    Examples:

    Say you wanna prove women don't make as much money as men in field XYZ. Doesn't really matter what the result is, you get to publish, and in a publish or perish world, you win.

    Say you wanna methylate some weird hydrocarbon. And you just Freaking Cannot Do it. Perhaps because its impossible. Oh well I guess you fail and become homeless and live under a bridge. Or you could bend the rules just a tiny bit just this one time....

    I would stand by my lifetime observation that women are dramatically less tolerant of risk.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      For example, lots more women in lib arts, where pretty much any result is acceptable. In the hard sciences, negative results are pretty much unacceptable, although in many ways they're just as important as positive results.

      I don't see how that makes any difference. It's a proven fact that men take risks even when there is not a clear advantage to doing so. In laymans terms, the "hold my beer" effect. While a competitive field may amplify this tendancy, numerous studies have shown it to be present regardless of circumstances and even present when detrimental to the individual/group being observed.

      I would stand by my lifetime observation that women are dramatically less tolerant of risk.

      Yes... They have to stay home and raise the kids, so if you run off and get yourself killed methylating hydrocarbons and lying to la

  • is the dumbest study I've read on Slashdot to date. Congrats. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/50510582/ns/health-mens_health/#.UQBxUWdBqrg/ [msn.com] is random better news. Also, male doctors have a higher rate of sexual misconduct than female doctors, study pending.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @07:30PM (#42675209)

    It looked to me from the article that P=0.24.

    That is really not a reasonable basis to draw all these conclusions from.

  • by TangoMargarine (1617195) on Wednesday January 23, 2013 @07:35PM (#42675251) Journal

    After having actually read TFA, I still don't know what they mean by "misconduct." Are we talking academic, i.e. falsifying data or plagiarizing, or sexual misconduct, or what? The article carefully avoids ever joining an adjective to it.

    Because come on...in general, does anybody believe males if they report being accosted?

  • Oh sure! Everyone's ALL FOR preserving Hitler's Brain, but the moment you try to put it into the body of a great white shark, then all of a sudden you've gone TOO FAR!
  • In almost any study of gender behavior, males tend to fall on the extremes of both ends (the good and bad). We soar higher, but also crash more. Males score the very top in math, but also tend to fill up the very bottom. Male behavior just plain seems to be more varied than females, at least when objectively measured.

    It could be because over the course of human evolution, male roles have been more varied than females such that nature gambles more with the male brain so that males can find or create differen

  • It's 3 pages long, the last page is half references, the first page is a title page, the second page is half abstract.
    It's got one page of content.
    It fails to account for gender ratio in each of the job categories. It's not even mentioned other than to say it is comparable with other areas of science.

  • At first glance I thought the title said "Mad Scientists More Prone To Misconduct" and thought this could be an interesting article.

  • I just wanted to say that I fervently hope that Ferric Fang goes by the nickname 'Iron'.

  • Am I the only one that read the title as "Mad Scientists More Prone To Misconduct" and said to myself "Duh?"
  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @01:43AM (#42677873)
    A remarkable 88% of faculty members who committed misconduct were men, or 63 out of 72 individuals, or not large enough of a sample size to mean anything.

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