Ethical Challenges

9. Scientific Integrity

Mentoring and Supervising

Mentoring and supervising colleagues and students in science and ethics are important to creating a culture of ethical conduct and scientific integrity.  Policies and rules governing research are not intuitive and must be taught. Standard operating procedures need to be explained so that staff knows what to do and why it is important to adhere to the study protocol.  The scientific community is diverse and we cannot assume common culture, values and experiences.  Different cultures have different behavioral expectations.  To ensure that research meets our ethical and technical standards, we must be explicit about what those standards are.  When problems come up or when questionable practices occur, we must teach research staff and participants to discuss them rather than hide them.  A good mentor and research leader will be familiar with research procedures, will review the raw data and analyses, and address deviations that impact the research at regular team meetings, before there are major ethical breaches and before they affect the body of scientific literature.  This requires trust and the expectation that there will not be reprisal for acknowledging errors, misbehavior and other problems.

Example 12

A laboratory doing cutting edge research in a competitive area is alleged to have published falsified data. During an inquiry several lab members are interviewed. A scientist trained in another country tells the interviewer that part of her responsibilities as a researcher is to confirm the hypotheses of the senior scientist, even If doing so means manipulating some images. The junior scientist explains her career and future employment are dependent on the senior scientist.