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EthicsCaseStudyForm edit

Title Who Gets the Credit?
Long Title Who Gets the Credit?
Contributor/Contact John Banja, PhD (jbanja@emory.edu)
Contributor Details John Banja, PhD
Professor, Dept of Rehabilitation Medicine
Medical Ethics, Center for Ethics
Director, Section on Ethics in Research
CTSA Emory
Case Study Provided I joined a lab during graduate school and was assigned to a post-doc, who immediately had me working with him to synthesize a key compound for his project. We worked on the compound for a number of months with him directing the effort. However, I was pleased with my own contributions and was delighted to get positive feedback from him. Indeed, the overall experience I was having was very positive, making me work even harder on the project.

That’s when things got interesting. Early one evening, when we felt we were very close to success, I decided to stay a bit longer in the lab and try out some hunches. As I systematically tried out each one and tested it to see if it was correct, I FINALLY GOT IT. I verified it over and over to make sure. And I was overjoyed. I wrote it up, and left the lab in the wee hours of the morning elated but exhausted.

So I didn’t get to the lab until late the next morning, but I wasn’t concerned because I knew my senior partner would be gratified. What do I see, however, but him talking to the PI of the project and taking credit for my discovery of the previous evening. I walked over and was astonished to hear him saying to the PI, “I verified the compound this morning, so we’re on our way.” Apparently, he saw my lab notes of the evening before, duplicated my test that morning, and now was taking credit for it as his own!

When I got him in private, I was very upset and told him that the last, crucial step in the experiment—the one I did the previous evening—was my idea and my work. He laughed in my face and said that I was only tinkering around with some obvious strategies and that sooner or later one of us would finalize it. In other words, he was entirely dismissing the importance of my work the night before and arguing that the outcome was inevitable no matter which one of us did it. So, he was claiming the work as largely his own because the project was his and he did most of the intellectual work.

How should a lab resolve this problem? In a situation like this, who should get credit and what should the decisional process be?

Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership Topics
Variations in lab practices—legitimate and illegitimate variations,
Scientific methodology issues including research design_objectivity and bias
Mentor and Trainee Responsibilities Topics No mentor and trainee responsibilities topics
Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship Topics No publication practices and responsible authorship topics
Peer Review Topics No peer review topics
Collaborative Science Topics No collaborative science topics
Research Misconduct Topics No research misconduct topics
Conflicts of Interest, Law and Policy Topics No conflicts of interest_law_and policy topics
Human Subjects


URL http://www.actsi.org/areas/erks/ethics/index.html
RCR Keyword Intellectual Work, Lab Notes, Collaboration, Ideas, Lab Partners
Other RCR Keywords

Case Difficulty Quick
Type of Case

Source for Topic Areas Du Bois, J., & Dueker, J. (2009). Teaching and Assessing the Responsible Conduct of Research: A Delphi Consensus Panel Report. Journal of Research Administration, 40(1), 49-70.


Topic revision: r5 - 13 Nov 2011 - 12:31:25 - MarkYarborough
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