Standards of Scientific Conduct: Are There Any?
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The practice of research is full of ethical challenges, many of which might be addressed through the teaching of responsible conduct of research (RCR). Although such training is increasingly required, there is no clear consensus about either the goals or content of an RCR curriculum. The present study was designed to assess community standards in three domains of research practice: authorship, collaboration, and data management. A survey, developed through advice from content matter experts, focus groups, and interviews, was distributed in November 2010 to U.S. faculty from 50 graduate programs for each of four different disciplines: microbiology, neuroscience, nursing, and psychology. The survey addressed practices and perceived standards, as well as perceptions about teaching and learning. Over 1,300 responses (response rate of 21 %) yielded statistically significant differences in responses to nearly all questions. However the magnitude of these differences was typically small, leaving little reason to argue for community consensus on standards. For nearly all questions asked, the clear finding was that there was nothing approaching consensus. These results may be useful not so much to teach what the standards are, but to increase student awareness of the diversity of those standards in reported practice.
KeywordsResponsible conduct of research Research ethics Standards Authorship Collaboration Data management
Many individuals provided invaluable perspectives at each stage of this study, but the authors particularly want to thank the following for their expertise and guidance: Daniel Cabrera (Northern Illinois University), Paul Friedman (UC San Diego), Elizabeth Heitman (Vanderbilt University), Francis Macrina (Virginia Commonwealth University), Joan Sieber (California State University East Bay), Connie Ulrich (University of Pennsylvania), David Urban (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Daniel Vasgird (West Virginia University). The authors also particularly thank Paul Friedman for his thoughtful and useful editing of the manuscript, and thank Tiffany Lagare and Kelli Wing for their assistance in collecting names and e-mail addresses for faculty surveyed in this study. This project was supported by NIH NR009962, UL1RR031980, and UL1TR000100.
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