Institutions' expectations for researchers' self-funding, federal grant holding, and private industry involvement: manifold drivers of self-interest and researcher behavior uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Private industry involvement is viewed as tainting research with self-interest, whereas public funding is generally well regarded. Yet, dependence on "soft money" also triggers researcher and university self-interest. No empirical research has compared these factors' effects on academic researchers' behaviors. METHOD: In 2006-2007, a survey was mailed to 5,000 randomly selected biomedical and social science faculty at 50 top-tier research universities in the United States. Measures included a university's expectations or nonexpectations that researchers obtain external grant funding, the receipt or nonreceipt of public research funding, any relationships with private industry, and research-related behaviors ranging from the ideal, to the questionable, to misconduct. RESULTS: Being expected to obtain external funding and receiving federal research funding were both associated with significantly higher reports of 1 or more of 10 serious misbehaviors (P<.05) and neglectful or careless behaviors (P<.001). Researchers with federal funding were more likely than were those without to report having carelessly or inappropriately reviewed papers or proposals (9.6% versus 3.9%; P<.001). Those with private industry involvement were more likely than were those without to report 1 or more of 10 serious misbehaviors (28.5% versus 21.5%; P=.005) and to have engaged in misconduct (12.2% versus 7.1%; P=.004); they also were less likely to have always reported financial conflicts (96.0% versus 98.6%, P<.001). CONCLUSIONS: The free play of university and individual self-interests, combined with and contributing to the intense competition for research funding, may be undermining scientific integrity.

publication date

  • 2009