Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 1085–1093 | Cite as

Standards of Scientific Conduct: Disciplinary Differences

  • Michael Kalichman
  • Monica Sweet
  • Dena Plemmons
Original Paper


Teaching of responsible conduct of research is largely predicated on the assumption that there are accepted standards of conduct that can be taught. However there is little evidence of consensus in the scientific community about such standards, at least for the practices of authorship, collaboration, and data management. To assess whether such differences in standards are based on disciplinary differences, a survey, described previously, addressing standards, practices, and perceptions about teaching and learning was distributed in November 2010 to US faculty from 50 graduate programs for the biomedical disciplines of microbiology, neuroscience, nursing, and psychology. Despite evidence of statistically significant differences across the four disciplines, actual differences were quite small. Stricter measures of effect size indicated practically significant disciplinary differences for fewer than 10 % of the questions. This suggests that the variation in individual standards of practice within each discipline is at least as great as variation due to differences among disciplines. Therefore, the need for discipline-specific training may not be as important as sometimes thought.


Responsible 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 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.

Ethical standard

Ethical approval for this study involving human subjects was granted.

Supplementary material

11948_2014_9594_MOESM1_ESM.doc (66 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 65 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Kalichman
    • 1
  • Monica Sweet
    • 2
  • Dena Plemmons
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Research Ethics ProgramUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and CREATEUniversity of California, San DiegoLa Jolla, CAUSA
  3. 3.Department of Anthropology and Research Ethics ProgramUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  4. 4.Division of Research AffairsSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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