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EthicsCaseStudyForm edit

Title Let’s Not Mention That in the Report
Long Title Let’s Not Mention That in the Report
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 I was finishing my senior year in college—a small mid-Western, liberal arts college—and was working in Dr. Smith’s lab. Now, this college did not receive many grants, but Dr. Smith was recognized throughout the school (and frankly envied by a lot of his colleagues) as a real rainmaker. Despite the rather humble resources of the college, Smith was always getting money to run and grow his lab, and he turned out a number of students over the years who went on to have significant careers in science.

I was doing some extra-credit work in his lab, frankly hoping to be able to add material to my resume as I was applying to veterinary school. I was finishing a preliminary project and had gotten some very preliminary, but very interesting data. With graduation looming, however, I was discouraged that I couldn’t replicate them. Naturally, I reported this to Dr. Smith, and we worked on it some. But to no avail: we simply could not replicate the original findings.

I then had to write a final report on this project which we would send to the funding agency for grant continuation. I duly noted the nature of the experiments, the preliminary data, and the fact that repeated attempts to replicate the data failed. I turned the report into Dr. Smith, but when he gave me the final copy that he was sending to the funding agency, I noticed that he had deleted the sentences about the data replication failures.

I asked him why, and he said that it was abundantly clear in the report that this data was very preliminary and was not at all being described as definitive. Second, he remarked that my project was one of three others that he was reporting on, and that these projects were much farther along and more important to the grantor. He felt that my findings were relatively insignificant in comparison to the others so there wasn’t any point in belaboring my current failure to replicate my results. Third, he pointed out that it might still be possible to replicate the data. He speculated that perhaps my samples had gotten contaminated and that if we had a few more months to work on it, we’d confirm my original results.

And that was it. I graduated and moved on. But Dr. Smith’s omitting mention of my replication failures has always stuck in my memory. Was it wrong or was he justified?
Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership Topics
Variations in lab practices—legitimate and illegitimate variations,
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 Research Paper, Lab Notes
Other RCR Keywords Deletes Replication Failures; Failed to Replicate Data; Funding Agency; Lab; Preliminary Data; Written Report; Report on Positive Findings
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 - 10:55:03 - MaryBanach
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