February 22, 2024

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Uncovering data collection practices in student research

Uncovering data collection practices in student research

summary: A new study delves into the often murky world of student data collection practices in research projects. Questionable and potentially fraudulent behaviors were investigated during data collection, revealing insights into student misconduct.

While 64% of students did not report any problematic practices, some concerning behaviors were found, such as deleting data and manipulating participants.

The study emphasizes the need for transparent communication between students and supervisors and promotes open science as an essential element in improving research integrity.

Key facts:

  1. A joint team of psychology students and researchers surveyed 473 psychology students and 199 supervisors to rate data collection behaviors.
  2. Problematic data collection practices, including deletion of data and manipulation of participants, were reported by a portion of students, with supervisors likely underestimating their extent.
  3. Transparent communication between students and supervisors and an emphasis on open science are recommended to enhance research integrity.

source: Polish Society of Social Psychology

Recent efforts to improve openness and transparency in science are already paying dividends toward greater integrity in the way researchers work and publish science. It is now common for scientists to pre-register their studies and share their materials and data openly, so that their research is readily available for scientific scrutiny and collaboration.

However, behaviors during data collection still resemble a bit of a “black box,” especially when performed by students. In fact, there is a lot of questionable and even fraudulent behavior, such as telling participants the specific hypotheses they are interested in before starting the study or even instructing them to answer in a certain way, that is almost impossible to detect.

The main problem is that current practices and regulations are mostly ineffective in preventing or checking problematic behaviors in the data collection process. Moreover, detailed knowledge about the prevalence of such behaviors is relatively scarce. Previous research has mostly focused on questionable practices and misconduct at other stages of the research process such as data analysis and reporting.

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More importantly, questionable or even fraudulent behavior may not only be a problem among researchers, but may also be of great importance in student projects. If the data collected is public, it can be reused by other students, supervisors and other researchers as part of their work, including research articles published in journals.

However, there is no way to enable these re-users to be fully aware of what happened during data collection.

This is how a joint team of psychology students and researchers from LMU Munich decided to investigate questionable student practices and research misconduct during data collection.

“We asked: Can we trust student data?” Says Dr. Marilyn Altenmüller, author of the article.

“We wanted to know whether and how students were actually engaging in questionable and even fraudulent practices when collecting data for their projects. We were interested in what situational factors were likely to amplify or mitigate students' engagement in such behaviors.”

The research team surveyed the opinions of 473 psychology students and 199 supervisors at German-speaking universities. They asked them about 17 behaviors, ranging from questionable to fraudulent, to see if and which students had engaged in previous projects. Examples include allowing participants to participate in the study intentionally knowing that they know the hypotheses; Participate in your own survey; Delete or create data from scratch.

The researchers also sought to evaluate students' experiences during their projects. For example, they inquired about what kind of expectations and future statements their supervisor had communicated to them.

The research team then also asked supervisors about their perceptions of students' data collection behaviors and what they thought of how their students experienced their projects and supervision.

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The survey results reveal some reassuring thoughts, as well as some troubling thoughts about the “black box” of student data collection. While 64% of students did not report any problematic data collection practices, some behaviors were not uncommon: 4% admitted to deleting data; 8% participated in their own study; And 26% allowed participants to participate even though they knew the hypothesis.

On average, supervisors had similar impressions of students' questionable and fraudulent behavior. Among the notable differences were that supervisors assumed a much lower prevalence of students who participated in their survey and assumed a lower prevalence of data deletion.

Thus, the research team concluded that supervisors may underestimate some highly problematic behaviors among students.

To reduce the prevalence of problematic data collection behaviors among students, and thus improve data quality, researchers recommend addressing students' perceptions of pressures, opportunities, and justifications for engaging in these behaviors. In addition, it would be beneficial to make open science a core component of teaching.

In particular, transparent and clear communication between students and supervisors may be one of the most important keys to obtaining high-quality, research-ready student data. Those students who knew their data would be used by others also reported lower prevalence rates of problematic behaviors.

“Perhaps supervisors should consider how student experimental projects may be an opportunity not only for teaching but also for research,” the authors concluded positively.

About this neuroscience research news

author: Dimitar Boyadzhiev
source: Polish Society of Social Psychology
communication: Dimitar Boyadjiev – Polish Society of Social Psychology
picture: Image credited to Neuroscience News

Original search: Closed access.
Evading open science: The black box of student data collection“By Marilyn Sophie Altenmüller et al. Social Psychology Bulletin


a summary

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Evading open science: The black box of student data collection

While Open Science has arguably initiated positive changes at some stages of the research process (e.g., increased transparency through pre-registration), problematic behaviors during data collection remain almost impossible to detect and pose a significant risk to the validity and integrity of psychological research. – Especially, when researchers use data collected by others (such as students).

By exploring the perspectives of students and supervisors, this registered report highlights the “black box” of student data collection, focusing on questionable research practices and research misconduct (QRP/M).

The majority of students did not report engaging in any problematic behaviors during data collection, but some QRP/M—ranging from somewhat questionable to extremely fraudulent—appeared to be quite common (e.g., telling participants about the hypothesis in advance, participating in the private survey). .

We provide an overview of suspected QRP/M data collection by students and supervisors, explore potential drivers of these behaviors based on the fraud triangle model (including pressures, opportunities, and justifications), and report on how students and supervisors perceive the eligibility of student data for other uses (e.g. Example, scientific publications).

Furthermore, we explore the role of the student-supervisor relationship (e.g., communication and expectations) and open science practices in student projects.

In summary, our findings indicate the potential scientific value of data from student projects. Promoting transparent communication regarding expectations, experiences, and intentions between supervisors and students may further contribute to enhancing this possibility.