Case of the Month

The "Case of the Month" provides researchers with questions to be discussed with their peers, colleagues, trainees, and mentors. All are encouraged to talk with others about these cases and to submit their answers or questions to the Research Ethics Program.

From July 2015 - August 2019, the Research Ethics Program has shared 50 cases. For the near future, we plan to re-post earlier cases. In the meantime, we are considering options for future changes to the "Case of the Month" program. Ideas are welcome!

Case 50: August 2019

This is the fifth in a series of cases on the topic of reproducibility in science. An all too frequent finding in science is that research records are insufficiently complete or even lost. The result is that earlier findings might not be able to be reproduced largely because it is not possible to reconstruct what was actually done.

  • If someone wanted to reproduce the work you are now doing, and you were no longer available (or did not remember), what information would they need to do?
  • Is all of the information that would be needed recorded in such a way that it could be used by others?
  • What recordkeeping changes, if any, might improve the chances that others (or even you) might be able to reproduce work that you had done?

Case 49: July 2019

This is the fourth in a series of cases on the topic of reproducibility in science. In clinical trials, tremendous effort is expended to decrease the risk of unintentional bias. Studies are often conducted double blind (i.e., neither the research subjects nor the investigators know which subjects are receiving the treatment or the placebo), plans for the project must be clearly laid out in advance, and clear statements are expected about who was included and who was excluded from final analyses.

  • To your knowledge, are these same criteria commonly used in other kinds of research, including your own?
  • In your experience, have you seen good-intentioned researchers make subjective choices (e.g., about which data to include or which analyses to try) resulting in a risk of a false positive finding?
  • What, if anything, could you do in your own research to decrease the risk of biased findings?

Case 48: June 2019

This is the third in a series of cases on the topic of reproducibility in science. One reason that one group is unable to reproduce work of another may be because they are not using the same materials. For example, a study conducted in the same strain of mice from one supplier might differ if provided by a different supplier. Differences that might seem minor in different versions, for example, of software, antibodies, or populations of human subjects, might result in very different findings.

  • What materials used in your research might vary and result in research that might not be reproducible?
  • What steps, if any, are taken in your field to decrease the risk that differences in materials could result in research that will not be reproducible by others?
  • What steps can you take to ensure that the materials you are using are the same as those used by others, or that they are at least likely to produce similar results?

Case 47: May 2019

This is the second in a series of cases on the topic of reproducibility in science. One statistic often cited as an indicator of a reproducibility crisis is the increased rate of retraction of manuscripts and the possibility that this is due to fraud (fabrication or falsification of research data).

  • How frequent is it likely that published results in your field are fraudulent?
  • Should journals retract publications if their primary findings cannot be reproduced?
  • Since concerns about reproducibility usually focus on manuscripts that have not been retracted, what factors other than fraud could result in published work that is not reproducible by others?

Case 46: April 2019

In recent years, the scientific community has increasingly worried that much of what is published is not reproducible. One particularly influential paper by Ioannidis is titled "Why most published research findings are false." If true, there are many reasons that published research would not be reproducible.

  • Have you experienced cases in which you were unable to reproduce research published by others?
  • Have you experienced cases in which you were unable to reproduce research conducted by your or others in your own research group?
  • What do you consider to be the most likely reasons for irreproducibility and what might be done to increase the chance that research would be reproducible?

Case 45: March 2019

Scientists frequently note that the coverage of science is too often exaggerated, misleading, and/or simply wrong. Assuming that society would be better served by a combination of accessibility and accuracy of science reporting, the challenge is to figure out who has the responsibility to make this happen.

  • Do all scientists have a responsibility to effectively communicate with non-scientists about their work (or about science in general)?
  • Would we better served by science communicators who are (or were) scientists themselves?
  • Or is it better to encourage non-scientist journalists to learn enough from scientists to be effective communicators of the science?

Case 44: February 2019

The styles of research groups vary widely, and that is likely good for diversity in how science is conducted. However, some research group environments might best be described as toxic: researchers don't trust each other, disputes are frequent, and the level of competition between members of the group can lead to attempts at sabotaging one another.

  • In your experience have you seen or heard of such groups?
  • Consistent with allowing for diverse approaches to science, should we not worry about such groups, especially if they are successful in publishing high profile papers and winning large research awards?
  • If you consider such groups counterproductive to science, what can you or the institution do about it?

Case 43: January 2019

Researchers who are leaders in their field are often invited by more than one colleague to have a role in grant applications that might compete with one another for scarce funding. In such cases, there is a risk, even if unintentional, of passing good ideas from one proposal to the other.

  • Does a researcher invited to be part of two or more proposals have an obligation to tell the leaders for all proposals about the overlapping roles?
  • What risks might the competing teams face with an undeclared conflict of commitment to two or more proposals?
  • If you became aware that someone was listed on two proposals, but had not notified the lead investigators on the proposals, what actions (if any) would you take?

Case 42: December 2018

In general, deception is considered inconsistent with good practices in science. However, a case can be made deception might be acceptable under some circumstances.

Do some experiments involving psychological and behavioral outcomes in humans require deception and, if so, under what circumstances should an Institutional Review Board allow such deception?

If a researcher finds that other group members make use of his materials without asking, is it acceptable to discourage such use by mislabeling item?

Is it acceptable for a researcher to switch labels of materials or animals tested, to test the hypothesis that her collaborators are inadvertently allowing their assumptions to bias experiment outcomes?

Case 41: November 2018

Our local, state, and federal legislators can have an impact on the regulation of research, research funding, and the use or misuse of science and technology. However, at least in the US, these legislators often have little or no background in science.

Do scientists have an obligation to communicate with their legislators about how science is done, what is known, and/or the risks of choices to be made?

If a scientist is advocating for research positions that favor her or his work, then how can the perceived conflict of interest be addressed?

If a scientist is advocating for research positions that are outside of her or his expertise, then how, if at all, is this different than non-scientists rendering their opinions about what should or should not be done?

Case 40: October 2018

Research manuscripts must be sufficiently well-written both to pass peer review and to effectively communicate with other members of the research community. However, not all researchers have the ability to write well. The result is that individuals with good writing skills are sometimes recruited to write a manuscript even though they had little or nothing to do with the planning, conduct, analysis, or interpretation of the research. If these individuals are not named in the manuscript, they are often call ghost authors.

Should someone who was involved only in the writing of a research manuscript be credited as an author of the manuscript?

Should someone who was involved only in the writing of a research manuscript be credited in the acknowledgements?

If someone is hired to write a manuscript, should it be acceptable for them to ask to not be named as an author or in the acknowledgements because they don't feel confident about the quality of the research or the ways in which the researchers might modify the manuscript after it has been written?

Case 39: September 2018

The research enterprise relies heavily on the premise that experts can best judge the merits of their peers' work. However, because those in the best position to act as peer reviewers are potentially competitors, the system risks bias and abuse due to conflicts of interest. One example of this is the possibility that a reviewer will discover something in a still unpublished manuscript that would cause her or him to re-think some of the work they are now doing.

If you are reviewing a manuscript and are convinced enough that you realize you should revise your experiment plans, should you do so? Are you allowed to do so?

If you are reviewing a manuscript and are convinced that your current experiments are likely a wasted effort, should you discontinue those experiments? Are you allowed to do so?

If you are unsure about how to proceed, who should you ask?

Case 38: August 2018

It often seems that graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty spend at least as much time worrying about career advancement as they do about the science itself. Given the diverse versions of academic achievement, it is somewhat surprising that the focus is often solely on the number of papers published in "high impact factor" journals.

What does it mean to have a high impact factor?

Does publishing in a high impact factor journal mean that an investigator's work has high impact?

What alternatives or supplements to journal impact factor might better reflect the success of a researcher's career?

Case 37: July 2018

Many journals, professional societies, and funding agencies expect that researchers will share their data with others after publication. Despite this apparently simple principle, Nathan Myhrvold (former Chief Technology Officer with Microsoft) has been largely unsuccessful in his attempts to obtain the data behind NASA's mapping of asteroids.

Regardless of the merits of Myhrvold's request, under what circumstances, if any, should a paper be retracted if the researchers are unwilling or unable to produce the data behind their publication?

For your research, how much if any of your primary data would you be unwilling to share with others after publication?

Are there some kinds of primary data that should be exempt from expectations of sharing?

Case 36: June 2018

Conducting studies in humans can be difficult, but is ultimately the only definitive way to be sure something does or does not work in humans. One example is the question of whether a diet high in salt increases the risk of heart disease. A proper study could take many years of tightly controlled diets with target concentrations of salt. Doing so would be impractical in the general population, but it has been suggested that such a study could be conducted in prisoners.

Is the coercive nature of asking (requiring?) a prisoner to participate in a long-term study sufficiently problematic that the study should not be done?

If existing data provide a compelling (but not certain) case for the risks of a high salt diet, is it ethical to consider randomizing prisoners to a high salt diet?

What alternatives, if any, do we have for conducting this important study?

Case 35: May 2018

In close relationships, such as those found in academia, conflicts can arise for many reasons. One common approach is unfortunately to just live with the anger or hurt that comes from the perception of rude behavior. Another approach is to lash out with accusations or passive aggressive behavior. A moment’s reflection will confirm that these two approaches are likely doomed to failure.

What, if anything, could you do differently if, for example, your PI or a colleague insists on adding as an author to a manuscript someone you perceive to be unqualified?

From your personal experience or observations, have you seen a case where someone handled such a challenge well and, if so, how would you characterize their approach?

From your personal experience or observations, have you seen a case where someone handled such a challenge poorly and, if so, how would you characterize their approach?

Case 34: April 2018

A common refrain from scientists is that journalists misrepresent science. The concern is that reports about science give equal weight to competing views, even when scientific consensus is overwhelming, and that oversimplification either exaggerates the prospects of new developments or simply gets the basic facts wrong.

To what extent might scientists themselves be the unintentional source of the misinformation?

If scientists either don’t communicate well about their work, or don’t communicate at all with journalists, then how can those journalists be expected to get the story right?

If there is a responsibility for scientists to better communicate with the media, then how can they learn to be better communicators of their work?

Case 33: March 2018

Conversation in 2017 and 2018 often emphasized the perception that government leaders were acting on their biases rather than on science and evidence. Regardless of the merits of this concern, it is fair to ask to what extent do scientists protect themselves from the risks of bias in what they choose to study, how they study it, what they choose to report, and how they interpret their findings.

If an independent observer were to accuse you of bias in your research, what could you say in response to their concerns?

In addition to financial conflicts of interest, what other reasons might foster bias in scientists?

What steps, if any, could you take that might better protect you from risks of bias in the practice of research?

Case 32: February 2018

Many types of scholarship are defined in part by the use of pictures to illustrate what was seen. While there is some sense that a picture conveys reality, it is more often the case that the choice and processing of an image can unintentionally or sometimes intentionally misrepresent what was actually seen. For your own area of research and the use of images:

If someone were to accuse you of intentional misrepresentation in the publication of an image, what evidence and argument would you have in your defense?

To what extent are images selected and/or processed for publication such that they are representative of what was typically seen rather than an idealized version of what you hoped to see?

What are the standards in your field for how images can be processed and what obligations do researchers have to explain what they had done?


Case 31: January 2018

Frequently cases of research misconduct committed by trainees (graduate students, postdoctoral researchers) occurred without the knowledge of the Principal Investigator (PI) leading the research group, even in cases where he or she was included as an author on the fraudulent publications. Although it is often not possible for every member of a research team to have firsthand knowledge of all of the work conducted, it is reasonable to ask whether the PI or mentor has an obligation to see more than data summaries.

Does a PI have culpability for fraudulent work committed by one of her or his trainees if they put their name on the resulting paper?

What is the responsibility of a PI to see original work or raw data, not only to detect possible misrepresentations, but to provide feedback to new scientists?

Is there a limit to how many people a single PI can oversee and, if so, how can that number be determined?

Case 30: December 2017

One of the possible criteria included in authorship guidelines (e.g., International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) is to have a role in designing of the research. Noting design as an important element of authorship responsibility is understandable, but it isn’t as clear that this should always be considered a sufficient contribution to warrant authorship.

In your field of research, is design of the research study considered to be sufficient to warrant authorship?

If contributing to design alone is not sufficient, then what other contribution(s) would be necessary to warrant authorship?

How can an individual’s contribution to design be teased out from the likely ongoing, collaborative discussions with other members of the research group?

Case 29: November 2017

Not surprisingly, opinion among scientists varies widely about the appropriateness of being activists in the cause of science. At one extreme, some believe that their job is simply to do the best possible science, leaving questions of application, guideline development, public understanding, and regulation to the general public, journalists, teachers, and regulators. Others argue that scientists have a particular obligation based on their expertise to make their voices heard.

  • Should part of the skill set of scientists include the ability to advocate for science with audiences of non-scientists?
  • Are scientists simply one more special interest group, unlikely to be persuasive for the general public or legislators?
  • If scientists don’t adopt a role of science advocacy, are there non-scientists sufficiently capable to make the case for science?

Case 28: October 2017

One of the most frequent causes of dispute among researchers is different perspectives on criteria for authorship. Some research groups have tried to meet this challenge by creating a group policy or operating procedures to clarify how authorship will be defined and how disputes will be resolved.

  1. Is it possible to prescribe guidelines or approaches for authorship, or is this something that can only be addressed on a case by case basis?
  2. If your research group were interested in creating such a policy, what elements would you consider important to cover?
  3. If your research group were interested in creating such a policy, who would be involved and how would you proceed?

Case 27: September 2017

This year, scientists at the Salk Institute published a study demonstrating correction of a specific inherited mutation in early-stage human embryos using the gene editing tool, CRISPR. This technology could be a useful tool in decreasing the risk of serious inherited disorders, but it could also be used for purposes that may be harder to justify such as choosing different physical or mental traits. 

  1. Does the research community have a responsibility to identify and inform the general public of potential ethical concerns with research studies such as this one?
  2. What are the risks of widely use of this technology?
  3. Are there disadvantages of keeping the general public fully informed of potential ethical risks?

Case 26: August 2017

Plagiarism is often defined at least in part as one person taking words written by another person and passing them off as their own. However, this strict definition appears to be violated often as researchers use the same or very similar words from others or themselves to describe, for example, research methods.

To avoid the risk of ambiguity, should the research community adopt a zero tolerance policy, defining any unattributed use of the same words as plagiarism (and therefore research misconduct)?

If the policy should be more nuanced, then what criteria or guidance should be used so that a researcher will know what is and is not acceptable?

Does the fact that it is easier to track plagiarism of words than ideas mean that allegations of plagiarism should continue to focus almost invariably on words alone?      

Case 25: July 2017

From 1993-1995 the effectiveness of differing levels of lead abatement were assessed by the Krieger Institute in children living in low income housing in Baltimore, Maryland. The Krieger Institute was sued because the research called for not using interventions known to be effective, although more expensive. This study contrasts the goal of helping the community with risks to the participants in the research.

  1. This case was seen by some to be similar to the exploitation of African men with syphilis in Tuskegee.  Is such a lead abatement study an exploitation of low income urban families, or is it a justifiable attempt to find better ways to serve those communities?
  2. What are the risks to research if researchers must first address all community concerns before beginning a community based research study?
  3. What are the researchers’ responsibilities to inform, educate, and address the concerns of the community?

Adapted from material in: Mastroianni AC and Kahn JP (2002): Risk and Responsibility: Ethics, Grimes V Kennedy Krieger and Public Health Research Involving Children, Am J Public Health 92(7):1073–1076.

Case 24: June 2017

The National Academies recently released a report titled Fostering Integrity in Research.” Recommendation Five is that: “Societies and journals should develop clear disciplinary authorship standards.” The implication is that societies and journals have not sufficiently articulated and/or harmonized such standards.

Do the professional societies and/or journals associated with your scholarship have published standards for authorship?

What are the risks and benefits of harmonizing standards for authorship across diverse fields of scholarship?

What role, if any, could increase attention to authorship standards serve to promote integrity in research?

Case 23: May 2017

The recent March for Science highlighted an increased acceptance in the scientific community of a necessity for science activism. Many in the science community have argued that the March would be a potent expression of broad support among scientists and the general public for science and the scientific method. However, others (e.g., in the New York Times) have made the case that such activism underlines an “us vs. them” narrative, and that it will only further divide an increasingly divided country.

Did you participate in the March? Why or why not?

What do you see as the benefits from the March for Science?

What alternatives, if any, would have as much or more positive impact?

Case 22: April 2017

Considerable attention has been given to the problem of plagiarism, even though journal editors tend to believe this is not a major problem. However, plagiarism can take many different forms ranging from submitting someone else’s published work as your own new publication to redundant publication (someone publishing their own work a second time).

  • Are there degrees of plagiarism? For example, does it matter whether the person committing plagiarism is doing so in their own language or to write something in a second language?
  • Should we worry more about the number of words copied rather than the extent to which someone is copying the idea(s) of someone else?
  • If ideas are more important than the words, how can we detect plagiarism?

Case 21: March 2017

Many observers of science have noted that the high pressure, stressful environment is likely a factor in some scientists choosing to fabricate or falsify their data. On the other hand, other observers have noted that many people, including most scientists, do not commit misconduct when faced with pressure.

  • In your experience, to what extent is the research environment more stressful than for other occupations?
  • To what extent is pressure a valid excuse for committing scientific misconduct?
  • What can researchers do to decrease the risk that the pressures for survival will cause them or their colleagues to bend or break the rules?

Case 20: February 2017

Technology increasingly improves our lives, but those benefits come with risks. One such risk is that the benefits are made possible by the collection of personal information. Unauthorized access to such information can mean a compromise of an expectation of privacy.

  • What level of protection can we expect for information that is stored electronically in a wireless environment?
  • What differences are there, if any, between the potential of criminal and governmental access to our information?
  • Who should have a role in deciding standards for security, and when that security can be compromised for the public interest?

Case 19: January 2017

The scientific community is largely in agreement that climate change is slated to cause catastrophic damage to our planet. As of this month, this doesn't’t seem to be a view clearly held by the newly elected Presidential administration. Given the risks of climate change, one possible remedy would be to develop technologies to cool the planet (climate engineering).

  • Should we pursue climate engineering despite the risk of decreased enthusiasm for mitigating human impact on climate change?
  • What factors should determine whether or not such technology should ever be used?
  • Who should decide?

Case 18: December 2016

In the heavily competitive research environment, academic survival often depends on finding novel, statistically significant findings. This can often be accomplished by choices in study design that add little to our understanding, but still result in publication.
  • In your experience, does the current system of research funding encourage bad design?
  • Is it possible to shift our emphasis to how research is done rather than on what is found?
  • Would increased emphasis on sharing and transparency help to decrease the incentives to chase statistical significance?

Case 17: November 2016

After meeting with a professor who has an impressive resume and publication history, you realize much of her research is very similar in nature. She discloses to you that she often uses the same data and theory for various studies to reduce the amount of time spent gathering data.
  • Is duplicate publication of words, ideas, or research ever OK?
  • Is this plagiarism?
  • What should you do?

Case 16: October 2016

You’ve recently begun working with a professor who has published in many major journals. Working with him, you soon learn that his approach to research involves selective removal of data to produce statistically significant results and increase the chances of being published in a major journal.

  • Is it possible that the professor’s approach to research is ethical?
  • Why might the removal of data invalidate the meaning of the statistical tests?
  • Should you do anything about this? If so, what?

Case 15: September 2016

Research is often thought of as a highly objective enterprise. However, the reality is that there are numerous subjective choices to be made in terms of approach, design, methods of analysis, and interpretation. The result is the risk that these choices can, effectively, result in false positive findings. This is consistent with a recently described flaw in science: "too many studies are poorly designed."

  • Is this concern valid for your area of research or scholarship?
  • If not, why not?
  • If yes, what might be done to change incentives so as to decrease the risk of poorly designed research?

Case 14: August 2016

The current model for funding research throughout the world is based on a highly competitive system of short-term (5 years at most) funding. A case has been made that this model "puts pressure on labs to publish a lot of papers, breeds conflicts of interest, and encourages scientists to overhype their work." As noted in a commentary in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: "The current system is in perpetual disequilibrium, because it will inevitably generate an ever-increasing supply of scientists vying for a finite set of research resources and employment opportunities."

  • Are these concerns valid for your area of research or scholarship?
  • If not, why not?
  • If yes, what might be done to reap the gains of high quality research while diminishing the negative outcomes?

Case 13: July 2016

Driverless cars are increasingly in the news. This science fiction future is coming soon, but key ethical issues remain to be solved. For example: 

  • Should a car make an instant decision to potentially save the life of one passenger if the result would be to take the lives of 3 pedestrians?
  • What if it were your car? Should it protect your life first, rather than those of pedestrians?
  • And if such a car did injure or kill pedestrians, who should be responsible (you, the manufacturer of the car, the programmer of car's decision-making software, no one)?

Case 12: June 2016

Although the Zika virus has been known for many years, concern has increased dramatically in recent months because of the risk of congenital microcephaly in children born to mothers infected with Zika. Because Zika is carried by mosquitoes, one approach to preventing Zika is to target the mosquitoes. New developments in genetic engineering are being proposed as a means to control mosquito populations.

  • If the Zika-carrying species of mosquito could be severely limited, if not eliminated, by engineering male mosquitoes to produce offspring that would not survive, should we do so?
  • If genetic engineering could shift a population of mosquitoes so that it could no longer carry the virus, should we do so?
  • If genetically modified mosquitoes were to be released in a community, what percent of the community would have to agree to doing so before choosing to act?

Case 11: May 2016

Jianguo is a third year graduate student making good progress on his dissertation. His advisor, Professor Kumar has found funding to send Jianguo to his first scientific meeting. During the meeting, Jianguo gets into a good conversation with Professor Hayashi, a leader in the field of research pursued by Jianguo and Professor Kumar. Jianguo is excited by the opportunity to exchange ideas with a leader in the field and finds himself describing some of the work currently being done by Professor Kumar and other members of her research group.

  • Is sharing this information just part of good science, or is Jianguo revealing something that should be considered confidential?
  • What are the risks and benefits of sharing this information with Professor Hayashi?
  • How is Professor Kumar likely to view the sharing of information by Jianguo with another research group?

Case 10: April 2016

A widely held view, particularly in academia, is that clinical practice should be informed by evidence. While it might seem obvious that we should rely on evidence-based medicine, it isn’t as clear what that actually means. In a recent paper, John Ioannidis has made the case that reliance on evidence-based medicine is being abused.

  • What does it mean to be “evidence-based”?
  • Is it enough for a result to be statistically significant (probability less than 5% that the reported finding is false) to be considered evidence for application?
  • Do the incentives in science protect against or favor research findings that risk being biased?

Case 9: March 2016

Because Professor Blair is recognized as a leading authority in her field, editors frequently send her appropriate manuscripts for review. However, Professor Blair often gives those manuscripts to one of her graduate students to review, explaining of course that the material should be kept in confidence.

  • Is Professor Blair compromising the journal editors’ expectations of confidentiality?
  • Can the student list this peer review experience on their CV even though the journal editor was not aware of their role?
  • If Professor Blair were to have asked the journal editor about the possibility of sharing the review responsibility with a graduate student, what might the editor say?

Case 8: February 2016

Dr. Xiong and two of his students were recently pleased to have some of their research accepted for publication in the journal Nature. Unfortunately, two months after the paper was published, it came to Dr. Xiong’s attention that one of the students had falsified the data for a key experiment described in the paper. Dr. Xiong quickly repeated the experiment with the help of the second student and was relieved to see that the finding they had reported was in fact correct.

  • Should Dr. Xiong retract the paper because it is based on falsified research, even though he was able to verify its findings?
  • What if Dr. Xiong discovered that the findings were incorrect, but the work was not falsified?
  • More generally, should publications be retracted if they are found to be wrong?

Case 7: January 2016

Ananya and Hans are graduate students working in the same research group. Although they have their own research projects, they recently collaborated on some work that has just been accepted in a prestigious journal. Because they agreed that their contributions were equivalent, they agreed to be co-first authors, listing their names with Ananya first (alphabetical order). Hans is now applying for a postdoctoral position and trying to decide how he should list the paper in his biography.

  • Should Hans simply include the paper with authors as listed in the published version?
  • Should Hans list the paper with his name first since the paper was published with a clear indication that he and Ananya were co-first authors and had contributed equally?
  • Should Hans include the paper with authors as listed in the published version, but with an annotation to indicate that he and Ananya were co-first authors?

Case 6: December 2015

Nicole and Yuna collaborated successfully for many years, but a personal disagreement has left them unwilling and unable to continue their collaboration. Nicole claims that, because she received the majority of the funding, the data jointly collected should effectively go to her, allowing her to publish without Yuna. Yuna claims that the data should go to her because although she brought in fewer dollars, she wrote more successful proposals for the research and had done more data collection than Nicole.

  • Is Nicole or Yuna correct in her presumption that the data now belong to her?
  • If you were asked to help resolve this dispute, what would you suggest?
  • Is there anything that these collaborators could have done in advance to decrease the risk of this dispute?

Case 5: November 2015

Colin has started working on his dissertation research and is concerned that no one has discussed some basic issues with him such as how research records should be kept, how data should be analyzed, or how authorship is allocated. He decides to ask his thesis advisor, Prof. Kim, but she responds that it is best for him to figure these things out for himself.

  • Is it Professor Kim’s responsibility to serve as a mentor for Colin?
  • Are there circumstances in which Professor Kim’s approach to mentoring might be appropriate?
  • If this mentoring approach isn’t working for Colin, what might he do?

Case 4: October 2015

Jorge is a young faculty member collaborating with Saanvi, a more senior member of his department. In analyzing their data, Jorge and Saanvi discover that the effect they are looking for is not statistically significant, and therefore likely not publishable. Saanvi proposes that can probably find statistical significance by switching to a different test. Jorge is concerned that switching from the test they initially planned could be seen as falsification under the federal definition of research misconduct.

  • Is switching to a different statistical test acceptable statistically and, if so, under what circumstances?
  • Is switching to a different statistical test misleading? Research misconduct?
  • What should Jorge do?

Case 3: September 2015

Maria is senior undergraduate student who has been working part-time conducting research first as an independent study student and then in a paid position. She is excited to learn that some of her work will be included in a paper that is being submitted for publication by the head of the research group. However, she is surprised to see that her name is included in the acknowledgements, but not as an author.

  • Should Maria be an author on the paper?
  • Who decides what the criteria are for authorship?
  • Who can Maria talk to about her question?

Case 2: August 2015

Moishe is a grad student expecting to complete his dissertation in another year. By accident he has just discovered that his thesis advisor, Dr. Lyshenko may have falsified research for a recent publication. Moishe is thinking of saying something, but isn’t sure how if at all to do so.

  • Are there risks to Moishe if he says something?
  • Are there risks to Moishe if he does’t say something?
  • Who can he talk to, and what should he be doing?

Case 1: July 2015

Huizhong is a postdoctoral researcher who has worked in the research group of Professor Owusu for the past two years. She has been very successful in her work, publishing several high impact papers. Based on her plans to build on this work, she has been recruited into an excellent academic position. However, as she prepares to leave, Professor Owusu tells her that she cannot take copies of her research records with her.

  • Can Professor Owusu do this?
  • What options does Huizhong have now?
  • How could this situation have been prevented?