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Lovers in science

S. A. Modena samodena at csemail.cropsci.ncsu.edu
Wed May 26 18:20:32 EST 1993

In article <1993May24.203934.1 at molbiol.ox.ac.uk> forsburg at molbiol.ox.ac.uk writes:
>In article <1tqpcnINNjdi at MINERVA.CIS.YALE.EDU>, smith-una at yale.edu (Una Smith) writes:
>> Susan Forsburg <forsburg at molbiol.ox.ac.uk> wrote:
>>>...What I meant by avoiding direct professional contact was along
>>>the lines of avoiding the _obvious_ appearance of conflict of interest. 
>>>Ie, stay in the same dept, but not in the same lab...  
>> Avoid the appearance?  Meaning it should be kept secret (or discrete)? 
>> Given that people in academic departments always seem to know an
>> astonishing amount about the personal lives of others there, it seems
>> both pointless and (often) destructive to keep up the pretense that
>> it's only business.
>> I'm all for discrete behavior, but how about a little more honesty?

Given what Una just said and thinking of a particular couple (they've been
lovers for a couple years / she, a grad student / he, a prof in another
department ), I think their socially "discrete" behavior in public and
no-nonsense approach to acknowledging their love-ship has gained them
respect.....but frankly they are separated not only by departmental
affiliation, but are in unconnected buildings...so that if one sees them
together, it is pretty obvious that they are in each other *social*
company, rather than there being a "job" or academic connection.

Closeup relationships, based on lovership...or as I've seen, religious
affiliation (bad news when lab discussion hinges on differences in social
values/mores based on religious orthodoxy)....destroys respect.

>As for mentor AND lover--I'd say that's a REAL conflict of
>interest, and precisely the sort of no-win situation I was 
>labouring against.
>forsburg at molbiol.ox.ac.uk
One can think of this situation: a co-graduate student has a lover who is a
professor at a nearby university (let's say the grad student is at
UMass/Amherst and the prof is at Amherst College).  Who can cry foul?  It's
nobody's business.  Contrast that to the in-lab situations discussed.  Now
it is clearly a conflict of interest (and the feelings generated probably
varying only in intensity, but not kind, according to the type of
relationship that actually exists between the two people associating in a
"non-business" way in one's field-of-play).

I think this is an ethics discussion of broad applicability.

|     In person:  Steve Modena     AB4EL                           |
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