Taking Liberties

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.21.28 AMStudy finds widespread evidence of questionable research methods in management field

A surprising number of researchers in the field of management are framing their results to make their work appear more significant, say a team of Longwood business professors who reported the findings of a survey of their peers in an article published in the January 2016 Journal of Management.

“Questionable research practices don’t necessarily translate into academic misconduct,” said Dr. Charles White, associate professor of management and assistant dean of the College of Business and Economics, who co-authored the article with colleague Dr. Cheryl Adkins and researchers from other institutions. “Some practices, like falsifying data, clearly constitute an ethical breach. Other practices may be acceptable or not, depending on the circumstances.

“The bottom line is that all of these practices should be disclosed so that peer reviewers and readers are as informed as possible about the procedures that were followed.”

In a wide-ranging survey of management researchers, White and his colleagues found that, while almost no one reported falsifying data, more than one-third of those surveyed said they engaged in post-hoc exclusion of data for the express purpose of supporting hypotheses with statistical significance. Half said they selectively reported hypotheses on the basis of statistical significance or presented a revised hypothesis as the original.

“While [these practices] don’t constitute outright lying, they cloak the research so we are not getting the full picture. Because of that, we may be left with studies that are not replicable or reliable,” said White.

The research drew from a survey of 749 active management researchers combined with analysis of dozens of published studies.