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Neutralising fair credit: factors that influence unethical authorship practices
  1. Brad S Trinkle1,
  2. Trisha Phillips2,
  3. Alicia Hall3,
  4. Barton Moffatt3
  1. 1 Adkerson School of Accountancy, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, USA
  2. 2 Department of Political Science, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA
  3. 3 Department of Philosophy and Religion, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Barton Moffatt, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Mississippi State University, PO Box JS, Mississippi State, MS 59761, USA; brm157{at}


This study experimentally tests whether the techniques of neutralisation as identified in the criminal justice literature influence graduate student willingness to engage in questionable research practices (QRPs). Our results indicate that US-born graduate students are more willing to add an undeserved coauthor if the person who requests it is a faculty member in the student's department as opposed to a fellow student. Students are most likely to add an undeserving author if a faculty member is also their advisor. In addition, four techniques of neutralisation, ‘diffusion of responsibility’, ‘defence of necessity’, ‘advantageous comparison’ and ‘euphemistic labelling’, are associated with student willingness to act unethically. Participants who had received responsible conduct of research training were no less likely to commit the violation than those who had not. Knowledge of these influencing factors for QRPs will provide for opportunities to improve research ethics education strategies and materials.

  • Ethics
  • Research Ethics
  • Scientific Research

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  • Contributors BST, TP and BM conceived the study. BST designed and ran the study, and analysed the data. BST, TP, AH and BM interpreted the data, wrote and edited the paper.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Mississippi State University Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.