Survival is not all there is to worry about

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  • Science and Engineering Ethics (2001) 7, 589-591

    Science and Engineering Ethics, Volume 7, Issue 4, 2001 589

    Keywords: graduate training, responsible conduct, research ethics, professional development

    After I finished reading the paper by Fischer and Zigmond1 for what I expect to be thefirst of many times, a colleague knocked on the door and asked if I could point the wayto a book he could recommend to graduate students to help them write grants. As mydepartments resource person on the responsible conduct of research, I also seem tohave become a resource person for other matters related to the academic profession.This coincidence made me realize that I and my colleagues need to know whatmaterials are available if we are to adequately prepare our students to survive in thismost noble profession of seeking and spreading knowledge. One of the more importantcontributions of the Fischer/Zigmond paper (and their Survival skills and ethicswebsite at http://www.edc.gsph.pitt.edu/survival/) may be to provide us with a set ofresource materials that can be used to meet one of our most important professionalobligations that of teaching the next generation of scientists.

    During the past ten years, I have made it a habit to collect articles, books, and newsstories related to teaching about the responsible conduct of research. My collection isnot as wide ranging or as comprehensive as that compiled by Fischer and Zigmond. Ihave not done much with grant writing or issues related to access and diversity. Norhave I collected very many articles or books on some of the practical aspects ofteaching and research (e.g., preparing graphics, public speaking, etc.). Yet I am askedthese kinds of questions by both students and colleagues. Actually, I am asked a greatvariety of questions. One group of students (not all in my department) asked what theycould use for a discussion of mentoring (I gave them articles and A Professors Dutiesby Peter Markie2). A colleague (again from another department) asked who owned astudents dissertation data the advisor or the student (the advisor did in that case). Aresearcher asked if he could recruit students from his class to participate in a researchproject for extra credit in the class (No, we do not allow that at Purdue). Anotherwanted an example of good ethical behavior (I gave him Joe Morgensterns articleThe fifty-nine-story crisis from the New Yorker3).

    !"#$$

    Address for correspondence: Stuart I. Offenbach, Department of Psychological Sciences, PurdueUniversity, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907 USA; stuartio@purdue.edu (email).1353-3452 2001 Opragen Publications, POB 54, Guildford GU1 2YF, UK. http://www.opragen.co.uk

  • S. I. Offenbach

    590 Science and Engineering Ethics, Volume 7, Issue 4, 2001

    These experiences raised several other issues. My colleagues apparently see me asbeing able to provide answers or reading suggestions for a broad range of issues.Fischer and Zigmond have, by publishing their bibliography, given me and my newethics colleagues at other institutions a new tool that will allow us to meet thoserequests. And that brings me, finally, to the point. Many of us who have developed aprofessional focus on research ethics, or the responsible conduct of research, have beenconcerned with only a slice of the professional responsibility pie. Fischer andZigmond have it right when they view their efforts in the context of the profession ofacademia and science.

    However, even their approach may be limited in some ways. Noted physicist JohnZiman asked the question What do you think you are doing?4 (p.166) He askedscientists (and others) to take the question literally, and attend to what we are doingand why we are doing it. This is an important issue. The very question adds to the taskof training professionals (scientists, scholars, engineers, etc.) to do their thing. Theidea that we should be thinking about what we are doing, and why we are doing it,combines nicely with the question of how we are doing it. Ziman places these kindsof questions in the framework of studies of science, technology, and society. The issuenow should be taken one step further.

    Survival skills are not the only important missing component of graduateeducation1 Another missing component is critical thinking about the role of science insociety and our ability as scientists to fill that role. Graduate education programs needto include a broad spectrum of concerns encompassing both the responsible conduct ofresearch and professionalism: that is, the implications of how, and why, we do ourscience. However, I do not see these questions raised. For example, in the workshopon being a trainee, trainees need to consider their roles in society: being a scientist (or agraduate student) is certainly not a good job; it is a long and difficult program ofhard work! What are the rewards for accomplishing the task? What makes all this effortworth it? These are questions that should be considered. In addition, graduate studentsshould discuss their responsibility to society at large in their writing. Should scientistswrite only for colleagues or should they also write articles about their work that have abroader appeal? Maybe we all should be science writers at least part of the time (seealso the special issue of Science and Engineering Ethics Communicating Science5).

    My point is that faculty and students together need to consider Zimans question what do they think they are doing (or more properly, what do they think they will bedoing and why is it important to do it)? It is vitally important to add these questions tothe agenda because failure to do so has, in part, led to the tangled web of committees,rules and procedures that we now live with the Internal Review Boards, the AnimalCare and Use Committees, training requirements for the use and treatment of humansubjects in research, the soon-to-be training in the responsible conduct of research.These requirements have been thrust upon us because at least some scientists did notthink about the what and why of what they were doing. Conflicts of interest, falsifyingor fabricating data, plagiarism, authorship disputes, and other issues would not occur inan environment where researchers think about what their studies mean for the largersociety. What Ziman and Fischer and Zigmond are promoting is an educational

  • Survival is not all there is to worry about

    Science and Engineering Ethics, Volume 7, Issue 4, 2001 591

    experience and training program that will bring science back to a position of highrespectability and admiration in society, a position we seem to have lost. Moreover,they have given us some tools to do the job better and more responsibly.

    REFERENCES

    1. Fischer, B.A. & Zigmond, M.J. (2001) Promoting Responsible Conduct in Research ThroughSurvival Skills Workshops: Some Mentoring Is Best Done in a Crowd, Science andEngineering Ethics 7: 563-587.

    2. Markie, P.J. (1994) A Professors Duties: Ethical issues in college teaching, Roman &Littlefield, Lanham, MD.

    3. Morgenstern, J. (1995) The fifty-nine-story crisis, The New Yorker, May 25, pp 45-53.4. Ziman, J. (2001) Comment: Getting scientists to think about what they are doing, Science and

    Engineering Ethics 7: 165-176.5. Garrett, J.M. and Bird, S.J. (2000) Ethical Issues in Communicating Science, Science and

    Engineering Ethics 6: 435-442.

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