Next Article in Journal / Special Issue
Failure to Replicate: A Sign of Scientific Misconduct?
Previous Article in Journal / Special Issue
Editorial Misconduct—Definition, Cases, and Causes
Publications 2014, 2(3), 61-70; doi:10.3390/publications2030061

Measuring Scientific Misconduct—Lessons from Criminology

1 Institute for Research Information and Quality Assurance, Schützenstraße 6a, 10117 Berlin, Germany 2 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 February 2014 / Revised: 26 June 2014 / Accepted: 27 June 2014 / Published: 3 July 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Misconduct in Scientific Publishing)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [191 KB, uploaded 3 July 2014]


This article draws on research traditions and insights from Criminology to elaborate on the problems associated with current practices of measuring scientific misconduct. Analyses of the number of retracted articles are shown to suffer from the fact that the distinct processes of misconduct, detection, punishment, and publication of a retraction notice, all contribute to the number of retractions and, hence, will result in biased estimates. Self-report measures, as well as analyses of retractions, are additionally affected by the absence of a consistent definition of misconduct. This problem of definition is addressed further as stemming from a lack of generally valid definitions both on the level of measuring misconduct and on the level of scientific practice itself. Because science is an innovative and ever-changing endeavor, the meaning of misbehavior is permanently shifting and frequently readdressed and renegotiated within the scientific community. Quantitative approaches (i.e., statistics) alone, thus, are hardly able to accurately portray this dynamic phenomenon. It is argued that more research on the different processes and definitions associated with misconduct and its detection and sanctions is needed. The existing quantitative approaches need to be supported by qualitative research better suited to address and uncover processes of negotiation and definition.
Keywords: scientific misconduct; scientific retractions; scientific fraud; criminology; labeling theory; methodology scientific misconduct; scientific retractions; scientific fraud; criminology; labeling theory; methodology
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Share & Cite This Article

Further Mendeley | CiteULike
Export to BibTeX |
EndNote |
MDPI and ACS Style

Hesselmann, F.; Wienefoet, V.; Reinhart, M. Measuring Scientific Misconduct—Lessons from Criminology. Publications 2014, 2, 61-70.

View more citation formats

Related Articles

Article Metrics


[Return to top]
Publications EISSN 2304-6775 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert