Attitudes Towards and Prevalence of Research Misconduct Among Investigators in Egypt


Description of the Research

Recently the Middle-East has experienced an increase in research, but robust regulations, appropriate ethics review systems, and training in research ethics have not kept pace. A particular concern includes the extent of research misconduct.

To assess investigators’ attitudes as well as the prevalence of research misconduct in an Egyptian University and identify possible factors that might account for our results.
Methods: We performed a survey study at a university in Egypt that included undergraduates, post-graduates and faculty. The survey tool included: a) demographics, b) attitudes regarding the acceptability of certain practices in research conduct and c) frequency of observed and self-identified instances of scientific misconduct.
Ethics: The study was approved by the university’s IRB and a US-based IRB. 
Data Analysis: We used descriptive analysis and a chi-square test for bivariate analysis. A p < 0.05 was considered significant.

We analyzed data from 191 respondents. Demographics are shown below:

  • Gender
    • Males 31.9%
    • Females 66.5%
  • Position
    • Undergraduate student 18.8%
    • MSc student 34.0%
    • PhD Student 12.6%
    • Research Position 8.4%
    • Academic position 9.4%
  • Received Ethics Training?
    • No 43.5%
    • Yes 52.4%
  • If yes, did training include research misconduct?
    • Yes 56.0%
    • No 11.0%
    • Not sure 33.0%

Regarding attitudes toward research misconduct: 

  • 77.3% expressed concern about the occurrence of research misconduct
  • 50.0% agreed that dishonesty and misrepresentation of data are common
  • 64.5% regard pressures to publish and gain promotion is a major reason for engaging in misconduct
  • 71.8% of participants confirmed their awareness of regulations that govern research involving humans, animals, or laboratory practices

Incidence of research misconduct observed at least once by participants included: plagiarism (43.8%), obtaining improper informed consents (34.6%), and eliminating data that contradicts one’s hypothesis (46.9%). Self-identified incidences for the same categories were 9.1%, 10.4%, and 26.0% respectively.

This study provides insights on the attitudes towards and prevalence of misconduct among researchers in the Middle-East. Our results may be explained by lack of understanding or lack of awareness of the nature of research misconducts.

This study included self-reporting of self-identified practices, which could underestimate actual practices. Also, results from the one university in Egypt may not be generalizable to other universities in the region.

Next steps
We recommend further training in the responsible conduct of research and qualitative research (e.g., interview studies) to explore reasons for our results.