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Overview of corruption in academic research

Corruption in academic research has consequences beyond the academic community. When it happens in medical research or in research upon which policy decisions will be based, it can have devastating effects for the whole community. However, even when the research itself might not have an impact outside of the academic community, corruption in academia can undermine core values in society as it breaks the link between merit and hard work and success, and can make favouritism, bribery and fraud more acceptable to obtain results. The academic culture of “publish or perish” has incentivised unethical behaviour as academics have to produce and publish research constantly to advance in their careers. In low income and low-to-middle-income countries (LMIC), a lack of funding and opportunities further exacerbates the problems.

8 November 2021
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Overview of corruption in academic research

Main points

  • Misconduct can happen at all different stages of research. Favouritism or bribery can determine grant winners or PhD admissions; ghost-writers can be hired by faculty and students alike; data can be falsified to support an expected hypothesis.
  • The research environment and the “publish or perish” academic culture can incentivise misconduct in academic research as faculties need to publish new and valuable research constantly.
  • Academia is not impervious to more “mundane” types of corruption, and embezzlement and fraud are common risks particularly when academic autonomy becomes synonymous with a lack of oversight and control.
  • Low income and LMIC countries confront a particular set of challenges, as a lack of funding and specific barriers can create more incentives for unethical behaviour.

Cite this publication

Camacho, G.; (2021) Overview of corruption in academic research . Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Helpdesk Answer 2021:27)

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Gabriela Camacho


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