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On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition (1995)

Chapter:Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4917.
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APPENDIX: DISCUSSION OF CASE STUDIES

The hypothetical scenarios included in this booklet raise many different issues that can be discussed and debated. The observations and questions given below suggest just some of the areas that can be explored.

THE SELECTION OF DATA

Deborah and Kathleen's principal obligation, in writing up their results for publication, is to describe what they have done and give the basis for their actions. They must therefore examine how they can meet this obligation within the context of the experiment they have done. Questions that need to be answered include: If the authors 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? Should statistical analyses be done that both include and exclude the questionable data? If conventions within their discipline allow for the use of statistical devices to eliminate outlying data points, how explicit do Deborah and Kathleen need to be in the published paper about the procedures they have followed?

A CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Science thrives in an atmosphere of open communication. When communication is limited, progress is limited for everyone. John therefore needs to weigh the advantages of keeping quiet—if in fact there are any—against the damage that accrues to science if he keeps his suggestion to himself. He might also ask himself how keeping quiet might affect his own life in science. Does he want to appear to his advisor and his peers as someone who is less than forthcoming with his ideas? Will he enjoy science as much if he purposefully limits communication with others?

INDUSTRIAL SPONSORSHIP OF ACADEMIC RESEARCH

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 nature of the research is subverting Sandra's education. Sandra's faculty advisor 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. Can Sandra turn to those responsible for overseeing the research for help in resolving her own uncertainties? What would be the possible effects on her career if she did so?

THE SHARING OF RESEARCH MATERIALS

After a research material like a reagent has been described in a publication, sharing that material speeds and in some cases enables the replication of results and therefore contributes to the progress of science. But the reagent in this situation has not

Suggested Citation:"Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4917.
×

yet been described in a published paper, so the provisions for sharing it are different. Ed needs to consider the other laboratory's legitimate interest in developing that material and establishing how it works before publication. He also needs to consider the relationship between the two laboratories. If he turns to his faculty advisor for help in acquiring the reagent, how is his advisor likely to respond? Is there any way he can work with the other laboratory and thereby come a step closer to forming an agreement with them about the use of the reagent?

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

Ben is to be commended for being open and for seeking to involve others in his work. He will benefit from that openness, even if he seems not to have benefited in this situation. At the same time, Ben has to ask himself honestly if his comments were a critical factor in Dr. Freeman's work. If Dr. Freeman had already had the same ideas, he should have told Ben this during their conversation. But could the same ideas have come from elsewhere?

If Ben is still convinced that he has not been treated fairly, he will need to work with his research advisor to see if his contributions can be acknowledged. One option would be to see if his advisor would cosign a letter with Ben or write a letter on Ben's behalf addressing this issue. Ben will need to think about the possible implications of this course of action for his own career. What if Dr. Freeman writes back and says that the lack of credit was an oversight and that he will credit Ben in the future? What if he says that Ben's objections are not warranted and gives the reasons why?

PUBLICATION PRACTICES

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, Paula and her 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. Paula and her students may need to begin writing before they can tell whether one or more papers is needed.

In retrospect, Paula and her students might also ask themselves about the process that led to their decision. Should 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, should that influence future work in the lab?

FABRICATION IN A GRANT APPLICATION

Even though Don 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

Suggested Citation:"Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4917.
×

violated. Sometimes institutions may be unwilling or unable to respond to an ethical transgression in the way the scientific community would desire. Researchers might then have to decide the extent to which they are willing to impose and enforce sanctions themselves.

A CASE OF PLAGIARISM

A broad spectrum of misconduct falls into the category of plagiarism, ranging from obvious theft to uncredited paraphrasing that some might not consider dishonest at all. In a lifetime of reading, theorizing, and experimenting, a person's work will inevitably incorporate and overlap with that of others. However, occasional overlap is one thing; systematic use of the techniques, data, words, or ideas of others without appropriate acknowledgment is another.

A person's background can play a role in considering episodes of plagiarism. For example, what if May had never been taught the conventions and institutional policies governing the attribution of other's work? Should she then have been treated more leniently?

A CAREER IN THE BALANCE

Francine's most obvious option is to discuss the situation with her research advisor, but she has to ask herself if this is the best alternative. Her advisor is professionally and emotionally involved in the situation and may not be able to take an impartial stance. In addition, because the advisor 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.

Francine should also consider whether she can discuss the situation directly with Sylvia. Many suspicions evaporate when others have a chance to explain actions that may have been misinterpreted.

If Francine feels that she cannot talk with Sylvia, she needs some way to discuss her concerns confidentially. Maybe she could turn to a trusted friend, another member of the faculty, someone on the university's administrative staff, or an ombudsman designated by the university. That person can help Francine explore such questions as: What is known and what is not known about the situation? What are the options available to her? Should she put her concerns in writing, an action likely to lead to a formal investigation?

Suggested Citation:"Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4917.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4917.
×

The Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy (COSEPUP) is a joint committee of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. It includes members of the councils of all three bodies.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is the president of the NAS.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the NAE.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appointed professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences in its congressional charter to be an advisor to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to study problems of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the IOM.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4917.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4917.
×
Page26
Suggested Citation:"Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4917.
×
Page27
Suggested Citation:"Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4917.
×
Page28
Suggested Citation:"Appendix: Discussion of Case Studies." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4917.
×
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On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition Get This Book
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Since the first edition of On Being a Scientist was published in 1989, more than 200,000 copies have been distributed to graduate and undergraduate science students. Now this well-received booklet has been updated to incorporate the important developments in science ethics of the past 6 years and includes updated examples and material from the landmark volume Responsible Science (National Academy Press, 1992).

The revision reflects feedback from readers of the original version. In response to graduate students' requests, it offers several case studies in science ethics that pose provocative and realistic scenarios of ethical dilemmas and issues.

On Being a Scientist presents penetrating discussions of the social and historical context of science, the allocation of credit for discovery, the scientist's role in society, the issues revolving around publication, and many other aspects of scientific work. The booklet explores the inevitable conflicts that arise when the black and white areas of science meet the gray areas of human values and biases.

Written in a conversational style, this booklet will be of great interest to students entering scientific research, their instructors and mentors, and anyone interested in the role of scientific discovery in society.

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