I read on the Internet that most degrees in psychology and medicine are revoked because of data manipulation/fabrication. In other areas like engineering, degree revocations only happen due to plagiarism.

How can data manipulation misconduct only be detected in medicine or psychology, but not in the other fields of investigation?


2 Answers 2


Data fabrication is fairly rare as it is (though not rare enough), so maybe you need a more systematic data collection approach. For example, the Schön scandal ("biggest fraud in physics in the last 50 years") was a really high-profile data fabrication case from the hard sciences. It led to Schön's PhD degree being revoked.

However, what you observe may be because of a variation in the incidence of data fabrication between fields (e.g. due to the financial interests involved, "fuzzier" data making people think they can get away with it), or because of a variation in willingness to report misconduct. This has already been discussed on this site in this question. For example, there is some evidence that misconduct is reported more often in medical fields than in other fields.

Once methodological differences were controlled for, cross-study comparisons indicated that samples drawn exclusively from medical (including clinical and pharmacological) research reported misconduct more frequently than respondents in other fields or in mixed samples. To the author's knowledge, this is the first cross-disciplinary evidence of this kind, and it suggests that misconduct in clinical, pharmacological and medical research is more widespread than in other fields. This would support growing fears that the large financial interests that often drive medical research are severely biasing it [50], [51], [52]. However, as all survey-based data, this finding is open to the alternative interpretation that respondents in the medical profession are simply more aware of the problem and more willing to report it. This could indeed be the case, because medical research is a preferred target of research and training programs in scientific integrity, and because the severe social and legal consequences of misconduct in medical research might motivate respondents to report it.


I think that part of what you see is due to the fact that in some fields it is more necessary to actually look for problems than in others. Thus, in medicine, for example, people's lives may depend on the accuracy of results, so people are more inclined to want to either investigate the accuracy of the claims or to replicate the studies. Faked data becomes obvious only if you look. If opioid research is faked, for example, bad things happen to a lot of people. When bad things happen, other people want to know why.

In other fields, where the consequences may not be so dire, there is (a bit) less incentive to go looking for trouble. If few are looking, not much will be found. On the other hand, people who find themselves plagiarized are generally happy to raise the issue, but I think that happens in all fields, but is also fairly rare.

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