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EthicsCaseStudyForm edit

Title An Instance of Data Manipulation
Long Title An Instance of Data Manipulation
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 Labs A & B had been collaborating for some time, leading to a publication that appeared in a very prestigious journal. Some months later, Mary, who is a researcher from Lab A, visited Lab B to learn a technique used in the paper. While there, she became highly suspicious of the technique that the lab technicians and researchers were using. When she questioned them, they were very vague in their explanations and never really showed her how to do the experiment that she visited to learn. When she returned and reported all this to her PI, he decided to do an experiment on his own. Instead of sending the next batch of dissolved protein to Lab B as it was expecting, Mary's PI sent pure water. Lab B generated data from the water. Mary's PI then called the PI of Lab B, who denied wrongdoing and broke off the collaboration. Mary's PI did not publicly report the false data, however, for fear that the earlier paper the labs had co-authored might be suspected of data manipulation.

The PI from Lab B was clearly in an ethical bind. On the one hand, it certainly appeared he had an obligation to report falsified data. On the other, he has an obligation to protect his lab's future. The retraction of a previously published paper in a very high impact journal would put his career and the future of his and his collaborator's labs in jeopardy. Indeed, the consequences of a blemish to one PI's ethical conduct would affect everyone else in the labs as they attempt to procure future funding and jobs.

My PI appeared to feel more obligated to protect his lab's interests since he was not involved in any fabrication, and had no proof of wrongdoing related to the published paper. Still, these kinds of instances are probably not all that uncommon, leading one to wonder how much data fabrication and fraud exist in scientific literature.
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
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
Types of collaboration,
Dealing with challenges in collaborative relationships
Research Misconduct Topics
Significance of misconduct,
Other serious deviations from scientific best practices,
Responding to observed misconduct
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 Misconduct, Collaboration, Lab Partners, Journal
Other RCR Keywords Co-authored; Collaborating; Data Manipulation; Fabrication; False Data; Falsified Data; Fraud; Lab Technicians; Labs; PI’s Ethical Conduct; Prestigious Journal; Researcher; Retraction
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: r1 - 28 Oct 2011 - 14:33:33 - DebieSchilling
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