25 August, 2010

Misconduct or not?

Imagine such a hypothetical situation. Someone is working in a research institution as a PhD student or a postdoc. She/he is very lazy and hires university students to analyze her/his experimental data, paying them as low-class workers. No one knows about that including the group leader, and names of these students never appear in articles neither among the authors nor in acknowledgements.

As for me, I think that this situation would make a case of misconduct, since it goes against such basic principles of research as openness and confidence.

What do you think?



milieu said...

Hi Misha,

I can empathize with being lazy! But I too think that this is scientific misconduct. Though, I think that is only because she did not give credits to the persons that he/she employed. For if you think, post-docs are also low-paid ppl hired by professors to do the research. But atleast they are acknowledged and their names featured in the research paper.

Lemeshko said...

Hi milieu, thanks for your comment.

Yes, everyone taking part in the research project should be listed either among the authors, or in acknowledgements - that's where I see misconduct.


John M Kerr said...

I am not sure whether I agree, or at least, not without some more information about this (hypothetical) case.

Data analysis might be done by computer, in which case no acknowledgement is expected. Or by crowdsource (like http://www.galaxyzoo.org/ where there are too many contributors to list in a paper). Or I might use my own initiative to employ (and pay) people to do it, in which case they would presumably have agreed that their payment is all the recognition they can expect!

Quality is another matter; as the hypothetical sole credited author, the onus would be on me, to verify the correctness of the analysis performed by the minion denizens of my... evil empire... bwahahaha!

Lemeshko said...

Hi, John

Well, the question is about scientific ethics, which is based on openness. For instance, if you submit a paper to a journal, you have to sign (or electronically sign) a paper clearly stating two things:

1) All people listed as authors contributed to presented research,


2) Everyone who did contribute to the paper was offered an opportunity to be an author

Of course, you can say that if the students agreed that they get nothing but money for analysing data, the statement (2) is sort of satisfied.

But, on the other hand, the girl/guy hiring people is only a PhD student/a postdoc, and it's not him who decides who should be listed among the authors and who shouldn't. This is the group leader's decision.

And the main problem of this (hypotetical) situation is that noone is aware of that, including the group leader.

What do you think?