The role of supervisors on research ethics

The case study I have chosen for the examination of research ethics is the research misconduct in a project supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). In this project, following wrongdoings were committed:

(1) fabricating the results of the T-maze behavioral experiment for control mice to make it appear as though he had conducted the experiments

(2) falsifying the laboratory data and the animal transfer logs in an effort to cover up his actions, and

(3) reporting the fabricated and falsified data to his laboratory supervisors and principal investigator

I chose this case as I felt empathy to some degree with the respondent. The reason is that when somebody’s work is tied with experimentation (including myself), it is quite common to undergo some critical moments when a bunch of small and big issues are keeping you away from the desired output.

When your threshold for fighting against these challenges is a bit low, you may break down at any of these key moments. The actions taken in this case is a reflection of the breakdown. In my opinion, there are many of us who get quickly overwhelmed when bottlenecks happen across our paths. It is a natural reaction of our mind, and a good supervisor is one who prepares you against these moments. A good supervisor knows that the student wants to prove himself/herself to the advisor as quickly as possible and strives to keep the supervisor satisfied all the time. Knowing this, the supervisor should ensure the student that he/she can also discuss the problems without any consequences. The student should be made sure that missing a deadline is not worst thing in the world, and achieving genuine results is worthy enough to be patient, face challenges, and overcome them.

All in all, in my opinion, most of the cases that a student commits such falsifications occur when the student is worried about the consequences of reporting a problem instead of the results; and every student should be convinced that this is a common step toward the goal…


One Reply to “The role of supervisors on research ethics”

  1. Howdy Moein,

    I could not agree with you more. I am a master’s student and my research is not obligatory nor funded. However, I do sympathize with researchers who have the wait of the world on their shoulders. Its system is flawed. It seems counter intuitive to tie someone’s livelihood, research, and education together and expect a smooth operation. In this system Research Assistantships are destined to be a train wreck of emotions. But what can one do to relieve the pressure?
    There is much talk in Higher Education about resilience and self-care. However, I question the importance of resilience. How much good can possibly come from graduate students enduring this kind of pressure for four to seven years? There must be some way to relieve the pressure and balance the workload. Maybe graduate students should be evaluated more holistically. If graduate students were evaluated like professors based on service, research, and teaching, then maybe they would only have to succeed at two of the three in order to graduate. I do realize that this may add even more pressure to students. Yet, I cannot help but notice that I do all of these things and in my current role there are little more than resume bullets.

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