Leaving academia: PhD attrition and unhealthy research environments

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This study investigates PhD candidates’ (N = 391) perceptions about their research environment at a Dutch university in terms of the research climate, (un)ethical supervisory practices, and questionable research practices. We assessed whether their perceptions are related to career considerations. We gathered quantitative self-report estimations of the perceptions of PhD candidates using an online survey tool and then conducted descriptive and within-subject correlation analysis of the results. While most PhD candidates experience fair evaluation processes, openness, integrity, trust, and freedom in their research climate, many report lack of time and support, insufficient supervision, and witness questionable research practices. Results based on Spearman correlations indicate that those who experience a less healthy research environment (including experiences with unethical supervision, questionable practices, and barriers to responsible research), more often consider leaving academia and their current PhD position.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0274976
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2022


  • Humans
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


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