Like all science, the field of psychology is vulnerable to fabrication, falsification, and poor research practices, but psychologists are leading the charge for change
When James DuBois, ScD, PhD, launched a training program in 2013 for researchers caught failing to comply with research protocols, plagiarizing, or falsifying and fabricating data, it was controversial, to say the least. The program’s launch was accompanied by a feature article in Nature’s news section, and much of the feedback was incensed (Cressey, D., Vol. 493, No. 197).
Given the serious consequences of questionable research practices (e.g. new interventions based on junk evidence and the damage to the reputation of science) and the nuanced research cultural factors that underpin it, psychologists taking a lead role in the response is fantastic.
It’s no wonder. Misconduct flies in the face of the values of scientific research, which at its heart is about the search for truth. But the reality is that misconduct and its cousin, questionable research practices, occur on a spectrum. The most egregious cases are from outright hucksters who don’t generally qualify for second chances. The majority, though, live in a gray area where an honest mistake, publish-or-perish pressure, and lack of clear norms or quality training can lead to blunders. Anyone, no matter how well intentioned, could be vulnerable.