Research Ethics

Richard Carlson, director of DTM, led a workshop titled, "Research Ethics," on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, in the Abelson Building Collaboration Center as part of DTM's Postdoctoral Development Workshop Series.

Carlson received his Ph.D. in Earth sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1980. His current research focus includes the study of nucleosynthetic heterogeneity in the early Solar nebula, attempts to more precisely determine the age of Earth’s moon, and various projects aimed at understanding the origin and evolution of continental crust on Earth and the consequences of its formation for the chemical constitution and structure of Earth’s interior.

The workshop on Wednesday focused on both ethical behavior in the workplace and in scientific publications and reviews. Although Carlson admits there are some gray areas, he urged the postdocs to understand what ethical situations they will most likely encounter throughout their careers and to know what steps they can take to handle them. 

Key takeaways from the workshop included: 

    • Treat employees as professionals and equals.
    • Always report harassament. Not reporting is implicit support of unethical behavior.
    • Keep detailed research notes in order to prevent accusations of fabrication or falsification of data.
    • Unethical behavior in sciencetific publication and review includes but is not limited to: plagiarism, shingling papers, unjustified authorship, improper attribution, and conflicts of interest in reviewing. 
    • When in doubt, ask the editor.
    • Every co-author should be given the opportunity to read and comment on the paper before submittal.
    • If worried about authorship, the safe bet is to ask and constructively discuss authorship with all contributors.
    • Recognize the implications of your review, both positive and negative. 

In attendance:

Postdocs: Jessica Donaldson, Stephen Elardo, Jonathan Gagne, Nan Liu, Shi Liu, Amanda Lough, Miki Nakajima, Erika Nesvold, Jesse Reimink, Myrian Telus, Johanna Teske, Christopher Thissen

Scientific Staff and Others: Conel Alexander, Robin Dienel, Janice Dunlap, Mary Horan, Casey Leffue, Diana Roman, Anat Shahar, Steve Shirey, Peter van Keken, Lara Wagner, Alycia Weinberger