Science and Engineering Ethics 26 (1):159-181 (2020)

The relationship between stress and unethical behaviour amongst non-tenured research staff in academia is a relatively unexplored phenomenon. The research reported herein was therefore carried out with the aim of exploring the relationship between stress, the socio-organisational factors which contribute to it, job satisfaction, perceptions of job instability, and the occurrence of unethical behaviour in research. 793 Italian researchers participated in the research—all of whom were working on fixed-term contracts—after being individually requested to complete an online questionnaire. The data indicate that unethical behaviours occur with alarming frequency. The stress level reported is quite high, as is the level of perceived job insecurity, both of which impact upon levels of job satisfaction. Perceived stress levels also seem to play a role in the commission of unethical behaviours, but this relationship is irrelevant when one considers the role of social and organisational factors that are known to induce it. Indeed, it seems that there are various socio-organisational determinants of stress that have an obvious direct negative influence on the commission of unethical behaviours more than the stress level per se. This research paints a worrying picture in relation to the psycho-physical state of non-tenured researchers as a result of the working conditions in which they find themselves in Italian universities.
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DOI 10.1007/s11948-019-00091-6
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