We haven’t covered that many retractions in economics, and a 2012 paper found very few such retractions. Now, a new study based on a survey of economists tries to get a handle on how often economists commit scientific misconduct.
Here’s the abstract of “Scientific misbehavior in economics,” which appeared in Research Policy:
This study reports the results of a survey of professional, mostly academic economists about their research norms and scientific misbehavior. Behavior such as data fabrication or plagiarism are (almost) unanimously rejected and admitted by less than 4% of participants. Research practices that are often considered “questionable,” e.g., strategic behavior while analyzing results or in the publication process, are rejected by at least 60%. Despite their low justifiability, these behaviors are widespread. Ninety-four percent report having engaged in at least one unaccepted research practice. Surveyed economists perceive strong pressure to publish. The level of justifiability assigned to different misdemeanors does not increase with the perception of pressure. However, perceived pressure is found to be positively related to the admission of being involved in several unaccepted research practices. Although the results cannot prove causality, they are consistent with the notion that the “publish or perish” culture motivates researchers to violate research norms.
Some examples: More than half of economists who responded to the survey said they had “refrained from checking the contents of the works cited,” while about 20% said admitted to salami slicing — ie “Maximized the number of publications by dividing the work to the smallest publishable unit, meaning several individual articles covering similar topics and differing from each other only slightly” — and about a third said they had cherry-picked, or “presented empirical findings selectively so that they confirm one’s argument.”
Here is the percentage of EEA members who responded to the survey who have committed the particular sins (click the image so you might actually be able to, like, read it):
At this point I might condemn those EEA members who admitted their sins, but researchers who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.