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EthicsCaseStudyForm edit

Title Praying Over the Experiment?
Long Title Praying Over the Experiment?
Contributor/Contact John Banja, PhD (jbanja@emory.edu)
Contributor Details John Banja, PhD
Director, Section on Ethics in Research
Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30322
CTSA Emory
Case Study Provided One of the oddest but most memorable experiences I ever had in my graduate and post-graduate training occurred one morning when I got to the lab rather early. Our lab was a large one, and had recruited a number of fine, junior investigators from Southeast Asia. As I hung up my coat, I glanced into an adjacent room and saw three of them apparently praying over their experimental materials. They were standing around their lab table. Their eyes were tightly shut, and they were obviously chanting a prayer, all the while making circular arm movements with their palms outstretched over the experiment. I quickly moved away, and I don’t think they saw me.

This may sound crazy but is that ethical? I mean, can you ethically argue that researchers should not pray over their experiments because such activity might heighten their interpretational biases or—and this is where things really get vague—introduce some kind of “contaminating variable” into the experiment? I mean, there have been research studies on the power of prayer in medicine with some studies actually showing positive results.

I’ll never forget this provocative and rather touching experience. It posed such a contrast, or maybe I should say a confluence, between deeply felt and applied spirituality with the objective, scientific mindset of Western research. But should the lab director condone this sort of thing as a regular practice? Do you think it poses any cause for ethical or professional concern?
Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership Topics
Ethical values behind the scientific standards for data acquisition_management_sharing and ownership,
Variations in lab practices—legitimate and illegitimate variations,
Scientific methodology issues including research design_objectivity and bias,
Data reporting,
Special issues related to scientific roles
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 No human subjects

URL http://www.actsi.org/areas/erks/ethics/index.html
RCR Keyword Lab Notes, Collaboration, Lab Partners, Students, Post-doc
Other RCR Keywords Applied Spirituality; Causality; Chanting; Contaminating Variable; Experiment; Graduate; Interpretational Biases; Junior Investigators; Lab Director; Objective; Objectivity; Post-graduate Training; Power of Prayer in Medicine; Prayer; Researchers; Scientific Mindset; Scientific Realism
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: r2 - 28 Oct 2011 - 10:56:07 - MaryBanach
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