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On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research, Third Edition APPENDIX: DISCUSSION OF CASE STUDIES The hypothetical scenarios included in this guide raise many different issues that can be discussed and debated. The following observations suggest just some of the topics that can be explored but are by no means exhaustive. A CHANGE OF PLANS (Page 5) Differences of opinion about when a dissertation is finished or almost finished are a common source of tension between Ph.D. students and their advisers. Good communication throughout the preparation of a dissertation is essential to avoid disappointment. Meetings should be held regularly to review progress and discuss future plans. If a student has difficulties discussing these issues with a thesis adviser, as Joseph did, the other members of a thesis committee should be willing to intervene to make sure that expectations are identified and made clear to all parties. THE SELECTION OF DATA (Page 10) Deborah and Kamala’s principal obligation in writing up their results for publication is to describe what they have done and give the basis for their actions. Questions that they need to answer include: If they state in the paper that data have been rejected because of problems with the power supply, should the data points still be included in the published chart? How should they determine which points to keep and which to reject? What kind of error analyses should be done that both include and exclude the questionable data? How hard should they work to salvage these data given the difficulties with their measurements? Is the best course to focus on the systemic error (power fluctuations) and figure out how to eliminate the fluctuations or to repeat the experiment adjusting for the fluctuations? Consult-
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On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research, Third Edition ing with the principal investigator or a senior researcher may provide additional options. DISCOVERING AN ERROR (Page 14) When the scientific record contains errors, other researchers can repeat those errors or waste time and money discovering and correcting them. Marie and Yuan, the authors of the papers, have published erroneous results that could mislead other researchers. How should they tell the editors of the journals where the papers appeared about the errors and publish corrections? FABRICATION IN A GRANT PROPOSAL (Page 17) Even though Vijay did not introduce spurious results into science, he fabricated the submission of the research paper and therefore engaged in misconduct. Though his treatment by the department might seem harsh, fabrication strikes so directly at the foundations of science that it is not excusable. This scenario also demonstrates that researchers and administrators in an institution may differ on the appropriate course of action to take when research ethics are violated. Researchers should think carefully about what courses of action could be taken in such a case. IS IT PLAGIARISM? (Page 18) Would it help, in all situations and in all fields, to simply place quotation marks around the borrowed sentences and attach a footnote? Writing a literature review requires judgment in the selection and interpretation of previous work. Professor Lee should consider whether copying the one-sentence summaries takes unfair advantage of the other author’s efforts, and whether those summaries relate to the proposal in the same way as the paper. In addition, because the literature review in the journal paper could be erroneous or incomplete,
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On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research, Third Edition Lee should strive to ensure that the proposal’s review of the literature is accurate. Finally, Lee should imagine what might happen if the author of the journal paper is asked to review Lee’s proposal. A CAREER IN THE BALANCE (Page 22) Peter’s most obvious option is to discuss the situation with his research adviser, but he has to ask himself if this is the best alternative. His adviser is professionally and emotionally involved in the situation and may not be able to take an impartial stance. In addition, because the adviser is involved in the situation, she may feel the need to turn the inquiry into a formal investigation or to report the inquiry to her supervisors. Peter should also consider whether he can discuss the situation directly with Jimmy. Many suspicions evaporate when others have a chance to explain actions that may have been misinterpreted. If Peter feels that he cannot talk with Jimmy, he needs some way to discuss his concerns confidentially. Maybe he could turn to a trusted friend, another member of the faculty (such as a senior or emeritus professor), someone on the university’s administrative staff, or an ombudsman designated by the university. That person can help Peter explore such questions as: What is known and what is not known about the situation? What are the options available to him? Why should he not put his concerns in writing, an action likely to lead to a formal investigation? TESTS ON STUDENTS (Page 25) Although the instructional modules do not risk harming the students’ health, because Antonio plans to publish the results, he must obtain IRB approval. Since the research study focuses on teaching techniques in an educational setting, this study would likely be exempt from full IRB review, but it is the IRB that decides that. Antonio should consider whether any incentives that he gives for testing the
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On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research, Third Edition modules might seem coercive to the students, and whether students who test the modules might have an unfair advantage over other students in the course. Explicit consent would be required if students might experience physical or psychological distress while using the modules, or if published information could be traced to individual students. A CHANGE OF PROTOCOL (Page 26) Guidelines for the care and use of laboratory animals are designed to both protect the welfare of animals and enhance the quality of research. Both of these goals are being undermined by Hua’s action, so who can they consult in the institution? What is the responsibility of the laboratory and its leadership for animal welfare? PUBLICATION PRACTICES (Page 32) Contributions to a scientific field are not counted in terms of the number of papers. They are counted in terms of significant differences in how science is understood. With that in mind, Andre and his students need to consider how they are most likely to make a significant contribution to their field. One determinant of impact is the coherence and completeness of a paper. Andre and his students may need to begin writing before they can tell whether one or more papers are needed. Parts of the research can also be broken out for separate publication with a opportunity for different first authorship. In retrospect, Andre and his students might also ask themselves about the process that led to their decision. How could they have discussed publications much earlier in the process? Were the students led to believe that they would be first authors on published papers? If so, how could that influence future policies or procedures in the lab?
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On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research, Third Edition WHO GETS CREDIT? (Page 36) Robert needs to know whether his company, the journal to which he plans to submit the paper, or his discipline has written policies pertaining to his situation. If so, he must decide whether to bring those policies to the attention of his supervisor, a research official in his company, or the editor of the journal; if not, he must decide whether to appeal to guidelines describing acceptable authorship practices in other documents. What are the possible outcomes of alternative actions that could help him make a decision? A COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITY? (Page 42) A software license is a legal contract, and all users must honor it, so Shen’s first task is to correct his unauthorized distribution of the software. Once done, the commercialization decision can be made. Many researchers have found themselves in a position similar to the one Shen is in, and they have made different decisions. Some decide that they will continue to provide a free service to their research communities without seeking to commercialize a new idea or technique. Others decide that commercialization will best serve their communities, themselves, their institutions, or—with luck—all of the parties involved. As his adviser has suggested, Shen should work with the technology transfer officer at his university to learn more about his options. A CONFLICT OF COMMITMENT (Page 45) Sandra has enrolled in the university to receive an education, not to work for industry. But working on industrially sponsored research is not necessarily incompatible with getting a good education. In fact, it can be a valuable way to gain insight into industrially oriented problems and to prepare for future work that has direct applications to societal needs. The question that must be asked is whether the
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On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research, Third Edition nature of the research is compromising Sandra’s education. Sandra’s faculty adviser has entered into a relationship that could result in conflicts of interest. That relationship is therefore most likely to be subject to review by third parties. How can Sandra get help in resolving her own uncertainties? What would be the possible effects on her career if she did so?