Researchers tested the efficacy of a one-hour training session on psychology graduate students’ attitudes toward ethically questionable research practices. Students who rated the training more favorably demonstrated greater attitude change toward detrimental research practices.1
Previously, these researchers studied techniques to reduce scientists’ endorsement and use of questionable research practices.
“Previous findings have linked such practices to unreliable and less valid scientific results,” notes Donald Sacco, PhD, chair of the institutional review board and assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. The work by Sacco and Brown was the first attempt to use prior findings in the context of a formal intervention to promote ethical practices.
At one-month follow-up, the effect of the intervention seemed to fade somewhat. Perceptions of questionable research practices were at a level in between before the intervention and one week after. Still, the researchers were encouraged that such a minimal intervention (a one-hour training session) produced results.
“We are more confident now that a more in-depth intervention, perhaps containing multiple training sessions, would be capable of fostering long-term changes,” Sacco reports.
Graduate students in their first semester of training seemed to already understand what is ethically questionable. “Nonetheless, our training was able to enhance their perceptions of questionable research practices as unethical.”
The next step is to conduct additional research to determine if a more in-depth intervention results in long-term attitude changes. If so, Sacco says he believes “it suggests providing education and training to early career graduate students may be a proactive opportunity to shape ethical research values in scientists.”
- Sacco DF, Brown M. Assessing the efficacy of a training intervention to reduce acceptance of questionable research practices in psychology graduate students. J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics 2019;14:209-218.