Scientists Behaving Badly: Insights from the Fraud Triangle

Blog No. 2011-02 (July 27, 2011)

Key Insight: Occasionally, journal editors are confronted with evidence that authors have engaged in unethical behaviors such as plagiarism, multiple submissions or fabricating data. What causes scientists to behave badly? I argue that the fraud triangle can provide useful insights into the pressures that lead scholars to engage in research fraud.

From: xxxTo: Lorraine EdenSent: Mon 2/22/2010Subject: ethical questionHi Lorraine, I have an important ethical question to ask you: I have received the same article from two different journals to review. One journal wants me to send them a regular referee form evaluating the quality of the article and the other wants me to write a commentary on the piece. Should I inform the editors that the manuscript has been submitted to two journals simultaneously? Thanks, xxx

—–Original Message—–

From: Lorraine Eden

Sent: Mon 2/22/2010

To: xxx

Subject: Re: ethical question

Dear xxx, I would inform the editors of both journals, attach the other paper, and not do either review. I’ll send you tomorrow my editorial on journal ethics. Lorraine

—–Original Message—–

From: xxx

Sent: Tues 2/23/2010

To: Eden, Lorraine

Subject: Re: ethical question

Lorraine, Thanks for the editorial on the ethics of scientific writing. I found it very useful myself, especially the section on redundancy (self-plagiarism). I was not aware that it would be an issue! Below you will find the reaction of one of the editors. Rather disappointing I think. I would have sent the author a rejection.  Best, xxx

—–Original Message—–

From: xxx

Sent: Tues 2/23/21010

To: EDITOR

Subject: FW: request to review…

Dear EDITOR, Thank you for your kind invitation to write a commentary on paper[ ……] for your journal. I was very surprised when I got your email yesterday as I had just finished reviewing the SAME article for another journal. I asked a couple of senior scholars on the usual procedure for this kind of problem, and they advised me to let you and the other editor know the article had been simultaneously submitted to two venues. I am curious to know how this will play out, so please keep me abreast of the journal’s decision regarding this article.  Sincerely, xxx

—–Original Message—–

From: EDITOR

Sent: Tues 2/23/2010

To: xxx

Subject: RE: request to review…

Dear xxx, Thank you so much for this message. This is not acceptable at our journal. I am going to contact the author and I will let you know. As far as I know, the author is currently revising the paper for our journal based on suggestions of two reviewers. If he/she withdraws the submission of the paper from the other journal it would not be a problem here. Sincerely, EDITOR

 

I think that most if not all AOM members would see the email exchange above (which actually happened; I made minor revisions to the emails) as unethical behavior by the author. Sending the same or substantially the same paper for review at and possible publication in two different journals is unacceptable behavior at most social science journals.  At least one of the journals was unaware that this was happening, based on one editor’s response, and probably both were unaware. Why would an author engage in this activity? I argue that insights from the fraud triangle can help explain why and when scientists are likely to behave badly.

Fraudulent behavior involves “intentional deception, lying, deceitful pretenses, cunning, willing misrepresentation of material fact, and deliberate trickery intended to gain an unfair and dishonest advantage” (Chui 2010: 8).  Fraud involves deliberate intent – lying – either by (1) concealing relevant facts that the individual is under an obligation to disclose or by (2) distorting relevant facts. Building on this definition, I define research fraud as a deliberate intent by an author to conceal or to distort facts relevant to the research process, all the way from the original research idea through to publication.

Cressey (1953) argued the individuals are more likely to commit fraud when three conditions or pressures occur: opportunity, incentive and rationalization. “[I]nformation asymmetries, uncertainty, or ambiguity combined with absent or lax monitoring and enforcement mechanisms” create opportunity for fraud (Stuebs and Wilkinson 2010: 27).  The individual must also have an incentive (financial, social or otherwise) to commit fraud. Third, the individual must rationalize the act as consistent with his or her code of ethics. Either the individual see the action as compliant (fitting within existing norms or rules) or strategically noncompliant (modifying or stretching the interpretation of the rules or norms so they encompass the action). There is a large literature providing empirical support to the fraud triangle at both the individual and organizational levels (e.g., Hogan, Rezaee, Riley & Velury 2008).

Let’s apply the fraud triangle to the example above where a reviewer is sent the same paper by two journals. Eden (2010) and Schminke (2009) provide other examples of scientists behaving badly where the fraud triangle could also be applied.  (Note that the November 2011 issue of Management and Organization Review (MOR) will also be devoted to research ethics.)

Opportunity, the first corner of the research fraud triangle, comes from informational hazards, weak monitoring and poor enforcement mechanisms.  Clearly, information asymmetries characterize the journal submission process. Individuals voluntarily submit papers to journals for possible publication, and journal editors rely either wholly or primarily on authors to disclose relevant information about their manuscripts.

Monitoring mechanisms are typically weak. Most journals now have a “check the box” mechanism whereby authors must state that their submission is new and not under review elsewhere. Some journals, such as Journal of International Business Studies, have an elaborate Code of Ethics, and authors are required to “check the box” that they have read and abided by the code (http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jibs/jibs_ethics_code.html). However, editors normally cannot verify author statements and, given huge number of submissions, may not have the time or ability for due  diligence. Detection depends on serendipity or accident, as in the case above where the same individual was asked to review both manuscripts. (Monitoring mechanisms may be improving, however, as journals start to run submitted manuscripts through cross-checking programs, such as iThenticate, that highlight overlaps with already published research.)

Lastly, weak enforcement also creates opportunity. As the case above demonstrates, many journal editors may not punish authors for misbehavior. When detection and punishment are low, authors may make a rational benefit-cost calculation and decide to engage in research fraud.

My search for the phrase “publish or perish” generated more than 450,000 results in Google; clearly, the incentive to engage in research fraud is well known inside and outside of academia.  Publication pressures can occur at any stage of a faculty member’s career, whether searching for the first or a new job, seeking tenure and/or promotion, or merit salary increases. One might expect that pre-tenured faculty face the strongest pressures to publish and therefore might be most expected to engage in research fraud. Schminke (2009: 588), however, found otherwise based on his interviews with 16 journal editors: most ethical violations were not caused by ‘‘junior scholars running ethical yellow lights because of pressures imposed by tenure time lines.’’ Thus, pressures to publish occur across one’s academic career. Moreover, financial rewards can involve more than simple merit pay increases. Some universities now pay a faculty member $US 10,000 or even $20,000 for an AOM publication, providing a strong incentive to engage in research fraud, particularly where opportunity, the first corner of the fraud triangle, is also strong.

The third corner of the research fraud triangle is rationalization. In order to commit research fraud, the scholar must be able to rationalize the action as consistent with his/her code of ethics.  Either the individual sees the action as fitting within existing norms or rules, or they can be bent to encompass the activity. Simple egoism (what benefits me most?) can also be a rationalizing factor.

As a starter, authors may simply be unaware of publication norms and rules; for example, PhD students or junior scholars may not be familiar with existing rules and procedures at major scholarly journals. Authors may “check the box” that they have read and abided by the journal’s ethics code without actually having done so. (How many times have you installed an updated version of a software program where you had to check the box that you had read the terms and conditions, and you checked the box – but didn’t read the 30+ pages of terms and conditions?)

In the case of research fraud above, where the author sends the same paper through the review process at two journals, the author may have also rationalized the behavior on the grounds that the reviewing process of satisfying the demands of two or three reviewers plus an editor, through two or three rounds of review, would result in two sufficiently different papers by the end of the process.  Thus, the ends (two separate publications) justified the means (sending the same paper to two journals).

Moreover, individuals may be conditioned by their colleagues and peers that it is OK because “everyone is doing it”. If authors believe or see other scholars also engaged in strategic noncompliance with ethical norms and rules—particularly where the behavior is not caught and may even be rewarded — it is easier to rationalize engaging in research fraud.

Cressey (1959) argued that all three corners of the fraud triangle had to occur simultaneously for individuals to engage in fraudulent behaviors. Similarly, I argue that when opportunity, incentive and rationalization combine to create strong pressures to engage in research fraud, we will find scientists behaving badly.

In another blog, I will talk about how to reduce the pressures for research fraud, but for my first blog on this topic, I would like to hear your views on the topic of pressures to engage in research fraud. Some issues for possible discussion and comments might include (but are not limited to):

1.      What do you see as research fraud?

2.      Please share examples from your own experience – as an author, reviewer and/or editor – of pressures affecting research fraud.

3.      Is the research fraud triangle a useful framework for explaining pressures for scientists to behave badly?

4.      Can you provide other examples of the three pressures (opportunity, incentive and rationalization) in addition to the ones I have above?

5.       Some authors argue the appropriate framework for understanding fraud is a diamond rather than a triangle, adding capability as a fourth pressure (Wolfe & Hermanson 2004). Capability considers personal traits and abilities (e.g., intelligence, experience, creativity, ability to lie and cope with stress) that make it more or less easy for individuals or organizations to successfully commit fraud. Can capability apply to research fraud also?

 

References

Cressey, D. 1953. Other People’s money; a study in the social psychology of embezzlement. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Eden, L. 2010. Letter from the Editor-in-Chief: Scientists Behaving Badly. Journal of International Business Studies, 41.4: 561-566.

Hogan, C.E., Rezaee, Z., Riley, Jr., R.A., & Velury, U.K. 2008. Financial statement fraud: Insights from the academic literature. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory, 27.2:  231-252.

Schminke, M. 2009. Editor’s comments: The better angels of our nature—ethics and integrity in the publishing process. Academy of Management Review, 34.4: 586-591.

Steubs, M., & Wilkinson, B. 2010. Ethics and the tax profession: Restoring the public interest focus. Accounting and the Public Interest, 10: 13-35.

Wolfe, D.T., & Hermanson, D.R. 2004. The fraud diamond: Considering the four elements of fraud. The CPA Journal, December: 38-42.

 

Acknowledgements:   I would like to thank Chi Anyansi-Archibong, Paul Beamish, David Bull, Jim Davis, Kathy Lund Dean, Chuck Hermann, Susan Jackson, Susan Madsen, Janet Salmons, Anne Tsui, Paul Vaaler and C.S. Wong, for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this blog. The views expressed herein are my own.  I would also like to thank the other members of the AOM Ethics Education Committee, the AOM Board of Governors, and Susan Fernandez and Terese Loncar at AOM Headquarters for their support of THE ETHICIST.

The Ethicist Terms of Use: AOM, contributors to THE ETHICIST, and AOM officers, staff and volunteers accept no responsibility for the content of all postings on THE ETHICIST, including the opinions and information posted or circulated by users on THE ETHICIST.  The content of all postings is solely the responsibility of the users. AOM cannot warrant the accuracy of any information posted on THE ETHICIST and disclaims all warranties with regard to information circulated on THE ETHICIST.  This disclaimer includes all warranties of merchantability and fitness.

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Author: Lorraine Eden

Research

9 thoughts on “Scientists Behaving Badly: Insights from the Fraud Triangle”

  1. Scientist Behaving badly is an ethical issue that has plagued many institutions and Administrators. Lorraine Eden is commended for raising this issue and giving us the framework ( fraud triangle) to somehow assess and try to understand this issue. The challenge now is to determine ways to enable not only journal editors and reviewers identify this type of fraud but also what would be the best punishment for those found guilty? Some get only a slap on the hand while others maybe fired from the university- it all depends on the value systems of the institutionor the administrators.

    In addition to the journal editors, this issue has come up with Promotion and Tenure and Retention committees who may discover that an applicant’s publications are replication of same article with a different title. Should this be reported to the authority or ignored? These are publications that slipped through two journal editors who had no way of cross checking submissions?

    This issue is also a challenge for ethics education- if professors who are expected to teach students about responsible conducts in research are for what ever reasons, pressure to publish, incentive, personal interest, etc. are “behaving badly”, what will happen to the students we are supposed to supervise and mentor?

    This blog raises lots of related issues on responsible conduct of research and publications and I look forward to reading other comments. Like most ethical discussions there are more questions than answers.

  2. Given the strong incentives that reward ‘behaving badly’ I am frankly surprised this does not happen more. I have enountered this same scenario (author submitting the same manuscript concurrently) only once as an editor, in the 10 years or so I have been in that role. It makes me wonder, though, how many other times it has happened and I just don’t know it. Until publish-or-perish as an absolute norm changes, I see this problem only becoming more prevalent, especially as more colleges and universities jump onto the research-focused bandwagon. Although Assurance of Learning gets a generally bad rap, it has certainly focused more energy and resources on teaching. And, the growing recognition of the scholarship of teaching and learning as a truly valuable source will also serve to shift the traditionally mono-dimensional research focus so embedded at many institutions. When reward systems change, and excellent teaching is rewarded as much as research (dare to dream), we will have much more well-rounded institutions in terms of ethical behavior.

  3. As a former founding editor of a lesser ranked journal, I think the problem is slightly more nuanced. On several occasions, I had manuscripts submitted for review that were subsequently pulled from the journal AFTER they went through a full review and acceptance cycle. Some of these articles were by senior scholars and were later published in a more prestigious outlet. I’ve also had authors attempt to negotiate publishing a subset of the paper (after the fact) claiming that they intended to submit the ‘full’ version elsewhere. My interpretation was that the authors were using my journal to get free feedback on their manuscripts with a relatively fast turnaround time but really had no intention of seeing the paper in print with my journal.

    Thus, another perspective on the facts presented above is that the author intended to ‘pull’ one of the papers after receiving feedback with no intention of ever seeing the paper in print in two locations. This is unethical because of the free-riding on volunteer resources but is only fraud in the sense that the author certified that the paper was not under review at another outlet. I see no difference in serial or parallel submissions if the intent is to fish for reviews or acceptances.

    Of course, we do not condemn a seller that negotiates with multiple buyers in a free market. For instance, when selling a house I may routinely deal with multiple offers from potential buyers. This is considered the ‘smart’ thing to do particularly if an offer from a given buyer might fall through.

    So why should journals have the privileged position of demanding that sellers (authors) deal with them on an exclusive basis (sometimes for a year or more)? After all, the reviewer in this case would presumably offer the same review of the paper to both outlets so the only time being wasted is that of the editor. If the author had to pay a fee to submit the article for review would it change the situation in any way?

  4. All, these are excellent comments. Building on them, I wanted to draw to your attention a new article by Xiao-Ping Chen, “Author ethical dilemmas in the research publication process”, which is forthcoming in a special issue on journal ethics in Management and Organization Review. Chen reviews several different examples of ethical dilemmas for authors, some of which are also discussed in my earlier “Scientists behaving badly” JIBS editorial. The new AOM videos on research ethics, prepared by the Ethics Education Committee, are also very useful in pointing out problematic behaviors by authors.

    I am a convert for stronger ex ante prevention of ethical blunders, believing that education and discussion of these issues can help individuals understand the problems that can be caused if they act without thinking. Better to reduce the likelihood ahead of time than have to punish infractions afterwards! Just as every faculty member’s heart sinks when they find evidence of a plagiarism case, being a journal editor and finding evidence that an author plagiarized or too finely “sliced and diced” their research is also a depressing event. Using the fraud triangle can help us think through ways that we can — ex ante — reduce the incentives for and likelihood of these unethical behaviors.

  5. I shall be the devil advocate in this discussion. Folks…especially editors…please don’t “automatically” put my name under your “lookout list” because of the stand that I’m going to take. As per definition of devil’s advocate, I shall try to “defend” those authors who make multiple submission.

    Fraud is a legal term. In specific, it is a business law term. In countries governed by the Common Law (or judge made law) system, we would usually look at two things to make a decision on an issue, or points to be presented in the court: 1. precedence (previous judged cases); 2. the statute law. This is part of our Doctrine of Precedence. Hence, it will be more meaningful to look at what the judges had said about this term here. According to Lord Denning, whose judgments were widely respected, insofar as there is a misunderstanding, it is misrepresentation. If it is intentional, it is fraud. If it is misrepresentation, we should then look at whether we can judge it as a case of innocent misrepresentation or not.

    Given that most journals require the authors to declare that the submitted article is not submitted elsewhere for review (especially for our AOM’s journals), multiple submission may be argued to be a case of fraud. However, is it necessarily so?

    From what I knew, some other discipline’s undergraduate journals allow author to submit simultaneously to multiple journals. You just need to notify the editor if your article is going to be published elsewhere while it is still under that journal’s review process. As a person must have gone through the undergraduate stage, it might be likely for him/her to have an impression that this is the “norm” for journal submission. If this is the case, when that person has reached the “professional” level, can it be possible for him/her to assume the same “norm” is applicable for the journal that s/he is submitting to? Given that some people just click those check boxes during submission / don’t read instruction to authors at all, this is highly likely. If this is the case, unless material facts can prove the person beyond reasonable doubt, s/he should not be guilty. Moreover, if it guilty, s/he should be found guilty under Tort of Negligence (Tort Law). Not fraud.

    What about our own journals? Let’s don’t look at “high-flyers” who can publish his/her first article in AMR / AMJ / other journals like me. Usually, it will be more likely that the student will submit a paper to AOM conference first. And…what is our AOM conference guideline? If I’m not wrong (please correct me if I do), it can be an article that is under review, but it cannot be published before the AOM presentation. Given that AMR, AMJ, etc., are all under AOM, can it be possible for a lazy person to submit without looking carefully at those tick boxes, or without reading the instruction to authors at all? Again, it should be yes. If this is the case, it should also be a case of innocent misrepresentation or negligence, and the author should not be deemed liable under fraud. The list can go on and on if I want to continue.

    Hence, although some folks really submitted to multiple journals with the knowledge that such act is against the journal’s guideline, we should not assume that ” all swans are black just because you happened to see one that has just swam through a pool of spilled-oil”. Moreover, I don’t think there is something call “Journal Review Act” or “AOM Act” in any country around the world; we don’t really have the right to call it fraud.

    Nevertheless, should this group of intentional offender (I won’t call it fraud because it is not really illegal to do so…) be condemned as if they have done something ridiculously wrong? Let’s be more…charitable.

    How does the “usual” academic career line looks like? 4 years bachelor, 2 years master, followed by 5 years PhD. This is the already the “ideal” career line for “high flyers”. I have seen one person who had this CV (if I did not remember wrong…): 4 years bachelor, 2 years master from a less prestigious university, 2 years master from a more prestigious university, 2 years master from a less prestigious US university, 2 years master from a more prestigious US university, and 5 years PhD from a less prestigious US university. That time I saw this CV was when this person was applying to a more prestigious university’s PhD programme. Alot of conference papers, but 0 journal article. So by the time one completed “enough education”, it should be at least 11 years.

    Then when will one become an assistant professor? I had also seen one person from an extremely good university spending around 7 years after getting the Dr as research assistant (or fellow, can’t remember clearly) before getting an assistant professor post. So, the 11 years before getting to the stage that one need to worry about tenure is also a career line for “high flyers”.

    What happens after one gets the assistant professor’s post? Of course, it is about tenure. This would mean at least 6 tier one in 6 years, provided that the person has done enough within the first 3 years to get the second 3 years contract. What would happen if that person can’t “meet the quota”? Of course, since they have not achieved “the ticket” for evaluation, they will have to leave. For “high flyers”, this would mean leaving academia for the industry after 17 years (11+6). For those who spent more time to reach this stage, this can easily go over 20 years. What does this mean? It means that the person need to start all over again from the bottom in the industry at mid-age (around / over 40). This can also mean that the person might need to work for his/her friend who had left for the industry straight after the bachelor’s degree. If not, you need to try out some other career lines. For example, it was reported in a news article that a PhD from Stanford was driving Taxi in Singapore, and the taxi driver who drove me to London from Oxford had a Master (the driver self-declared it).

    Yes, you would ask me what does it has to do with multiple journal submissions at this point of time. From what I heard, it is not unusual for some journals to take years to reject a paper. I had a paper that received a desk rejection (i.e., without going through the reviewers) more than 1 year after submission. I also have a paper that has stayed with a journal for more than 1 year, and the editor has not reached a decision yet. The “fastest” publication that I had was accepted after 1 year plus…after I graduated from my bachelor course (I finished writing it when I was in year 2…). When I told this to some people around me, they asked me “what’s so special about this?” In fact, one really experienced person had told me before (if I did not remember wrong) that a journal rejected one of that person’s submissions after 3 years. One of the reasons was inadequate sample size (the sample size was over 10,000…if I did not remember wrong).

    For people like me, since we do not intend to join the academia now, publication is only an add on. I don’t care how long the journals take to review. For people like the person who was rejected after 3 years, they will also not care because they have already got the tenure. However…what about those young assistant professors? 3 years might cause them to be not able to get the next 3 years contract, or to exceed the 6 years’ limit. For students, it might mean being not able to get their academic job after graduation. However, is this really their fault? To them, the worse will not be rejection / dismissal; the worse will be articles accepted after dismissal. Are journals…not guilty at all???

    In the business world, whenever there are risks, we hedge it. In my opinion, to this group of authors who did this multiple submission, they are merely hedging their risks. It should be well known to us about the study that was done back then. For the 10 articles that were accepted by some journals back then, less than half of them were accepted when they were sent to the same journals again. Given this prima facie randomness in the review process, can we really blame this group of people who are doing multiple submission? Before we say yes, they are unethical etc….we must really put ourselves in their shoes. If you are not who you are today…but is a young student / early career academic….will you really think in the same manner? Yes, you might still say yes. But..what if you are not as fortunate/lucky as you used to be? Maybe…what we should ask should not be whether multiple submission is unethical. Maybe…what we should ask is whether is it something that is so ridiculously wrong that it should not be forgiven, and the author should be “punished” by rejection?

    I know, some works are bad. They will never be accepted no matter where it goes. But what about those good stuff? Is it fair to their authors to be declined a career, and have to leave academia after 20 years and to restart their lives, not because of their inferior capability, but because of delays in their publications on the journal’s part?

    Moreover, what is the purpose of not allowing multiple submission? Apart from exclusive publication of article, I can’t really think of other reasons. Scientific research should be about contributing to the knowledge of mankind. For this purpose, insofar as an article is published, the goal is achieved. Yes, some articles may be rejected. However, it is not necessary for it to be a bad paper just because it was rejected by one journal. For example, it might be just because it was not in line with the scope of the journal. Furthermore, I remember that I saw in a news article that somebody proposed that Darwin might be wrong. However, it was realized later that an article was published around that era saying that Darwin might be wrong. However, it was published in a non-peer reviewed journal. The reason given was because Darwin was too famous, no peer review journal believed that paper. Just like Aristotle’s Geo-centric theory, the wrong theory was taken as the truth for many years not because it was true, but because the author was famous. If this is the case, in fact…multiple submission might be a good thing: it allows a decent / good article to be published in a shorter time (compared to submit, reject, submit to another place…). From the perspective of scientific development, this might be a better thing. I know you will say this wastes the reviewer’s resources. But an easy counter argument will be: what is so much to waste when what you need to do is to send the same comment out? If one says: “because I don’t have so much time to….”, then an easy counter argument will be what we have been saying to those folks who are holding on to n companies’ director post simultaneously: “you have over-stretched yourself”.

    So…what is so wrong about doing multiple submission? If this is unethical, does it make individuals involved in these scenarios unethical too? 1. people who send CVs to multiple companies; 2. people who send CVs to multiple departments in a company; 3. people who send applications to multiple universities / schools; 4. people who send applications to multiple departments/faculties in a school; etc. Will you say that these folks are involved in fraudulent act too? If one of the company place a similar restriction as journal (no multiple submission), will you say that these folks are involved in fraud?

    What do you think?

    Regards,

    Jhony

  6. Dear Jhony, Thank you for your comments. I think your post provides several nice examples of the “rationalization” corner of the fraud triangle I outlined in my blog posting, in addition to the examples I gave. I quote from my earlier posting:

    “In order to commit research fraud, the scholar must be able to rationalize the action as consistent with his/her code of ethics. Either the individual sees the action as fitting within existing norms or rules, or they can be bent to encompass the activity. Simple egoism (what benefits me most?) can also be a rationalizing factor.”

    My examples included (1) Authors were unaware of publication norms and rules, either because they were unfamiliar with them, or they didn’t take the time to read the rules (they “checked the box”). (2) Authors rationalized that sending the same paper to two journals would result in two different papers by the end of the process, assuming they both were accepted, and increased the probability of at least one making it through the “eye of the needle”. (3) Authors rationalized their actions on the grounds that “everyone was doing it” and so it was OK for me to do it too.

    To that list you have added:

    1. Fraud is a legal term and since there are no legal consequences, not abiding by a journal’s norms and rules cannot be fraud.

    LE: I disagree. The term “fraud” is broadly used in the literature. There are various types of fraud (e.g., tax fraud), but they don’t all have to have legal consequences. I also believe my application of the fraud triangle to the research dimension provides useful insights into why scientists behave badly, whether or not their misbehavior has legal consequences.

    2. Innocent misrepresentation or negligence (or laziness) is not fraud.

    LE: Here I do agree with you. The definition of fraud and the reinterpretation I used for research fraud would rule out innocent mistakes and laziness (although I don’t condone laziness). I quote from my earlier blog post:

    Fraudulent behavior involves “intentional deception, lying, deceitful pretenses, cunning, willing misrepresentation of material fact, and deliberate trickery intended to gain an unfair and dishonest advantage” (Chui 2010: 8). Fraud involves deliberate intent – lying – either by (1) concealing relevant facts that the individual is under an obligation to disclose or by (2) distorting relevant facts. Building on this definition, I define research fraud as a deliberate intent by an author to conceal or to distort facts relevant to the research process, all the way from the original research idea through to publication.

    3. Multiple submissions are OK at some disciplines and journals. It’s also OK to make multiple submissions in sending CVs to firms, applications to universities, etc. Because multiple submissions are so common elsewhere, even if multiple submissions are not allowed at this journal, it SHOULD be acceptable at this journal and so it’s OK to ignore the journal’s rules.

    LE: I disagree. When you send a paper to a journal, you abide by the norms and rules set by that journal. If that journal says your submission cannot be under review elsewhere, then it cannot be under review elsewhere. You enter an implicit contract with a journal when you submit a paper to that journal. The journal agrees to review your paper under certain conditions. The normal list of conditions at scholarly business journals is that: (1) your paper must not have been published in whole or in part elsewhere; (2) your paper must not be under review elsewhere; and (3) you must not submit your paper to another journal while it is under review at this journal. If you deliberately submit your paper to that journal, knowing full well that your paper does NOT meet one or more of these conditions, then in my books you are engaging in research fraud. It is not OK to say that “Because journal X allows multiple submissions, even if journal Y does not, it is OK for me to submit my paper to both X and Y.” The more general point is that when you join an organization you agree to abide by the norms and rules of that organization. Different organizations have different rules. It is not OK to join a particular organization and deliberately flout its rules because those rules don’t apply at some other organization.

    4. Journals behave badly and therefore it’s OK for authors to behave badly also.

    LE: I don’t condone many of the journal practices you mention in your comment (e.g., a year before getting a desk reject – when I was JIBS editor, our turnaround time for a desk reject was less than a week). Still, I don’t think you can justify flouting the journal’s norms and rules on the grounds that the journal editor or editors behave badly too. That seems to me to condone a race to the bottom whereby we all lose.

    5. Multiple submissions get research published faster and therefore encourage scientific breakthroughs.

    LE: Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know the statistics on this. Still, I think the point is irrelevant. Whatever the rules for submission set by a journal, an author doesn’t have the right to deliberately disregard these rules on the grounds of “the greater good”.

    6. Unethical behavior does not make a person unethical.

    LE: There’s an interesting recent study about people who engage in unethical behavior but do not see themselves as unethical. In other words, we are blind to our own unethical lapses. The article, “Stumbling into Bad Behavior”, by Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel, was published in the New York Times on April 20, 2011 and makes interesting reading. Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/opinion/21bazerman.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print.

    Thank-you for your comments!

  7. Hi Lorraine,

    Thanks for the reply. One thing implied in this post of mine, and the one that I posted in LinkedIn (on a discussion of authorship), is this: should we have some sort of codes of conduct?

    I know it is not possible for us to have an AOM Act, but what about some general guidelines? For example, in that post, I asked what can AOM do if a professor did not give a student his/her rightful authorship? Retraction of article? Yes, but it may be too harsh and not good for scientific development. But what about an AOM letter of verbal warning? Yes, but it is not going to be effective. But what about a general annoucement at the start of each year’s AOM meeting? This is going to be super effective for those more serious “actions” such as perpetual “eating up” of students’ authorships individuals who continue the unethical act despite receiving many warning letters from us. Yes, I agree that we can’t do what Academy of Law or medicine can do to those more serious crime perpetrators (such as fine or revoke of licence). But I believe that the annoucement will be a strong enough penalty that will keep anybody with conscious away from unethical acts. For your multiple submission case, I know some editors might put that person under a black name list. Some might even share that list around. But I believe that first time perpetrator should be given a chance (lest they might fall under my negligence / innocent misrepresentation category). However, for those who always disregarded the advice perpetually, then we should do something about them. However, as it only causes inconvenience to individual journals, we should always keep it to the level of moral suasion (i.e., advice emails). Unless…that person got from bad to worse despite multiple advices…

    What do you think? Should AOM come up with a general code of conduct for our members on such issues?

    Regards,

    Jhony

  8. Let me add one more thought: Implicit in my two postings on this topic has been the assumption that the norms (that is, the prescriptive and proscriptive standards of behavior) and the rules (that is, the detailed regulations that implement the norms) for journal submissions are clear and transparent so that any author exercising due diligence should be well aware of them. Moreover, I am assuming that the norms and rules are not so complex so that an author could not understand them or could not follow them. If a journal doesn’t make its norms and rules easily accessible, or has only implicit norms and no formal rules, or has norms and rules that are so complicated individuals can’t understand or follow them, then (in my view) that journal bears some responsibility for passively encouraging bad behaviors through its actions (and inactions). In the market for ideas both the suppliers (authors) and the demanders (journals) bear responsibility for ensuring the market functions efficiently and effectively.

  9. Jhony, AOM does have a code of ethics and does have an ombudsman office where AOM members can bring ethical issues. My understanding is that the ombuds persons do deal with several cases a year related to possible violations of the prescribed and proscribed behaviors in the code. See http://www.aomonline.org/aom.asp?id=268.

    My view is that it’s easier to handle unethical behaviors before they occur (ex ante) rather than afterwards (ex post). Educating PhD students and junior faculty by offering ethics workshops at the annual AOM meetings, posting ethics videos that can be used for classroom discussions, writing editorials on ethical dilemmas (and this blog!!) are all ways to raise awareness of ethical dilemmas ahead of time. Thurber said, “Let us not look back in anger or ahead in fear but rather around us in awareness”. I hope (as do the other members of the AOM Ethics Education Committee) that our actions (blogs, videos, seminars, etc) will in some small ways improve awareness around us.

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