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Research ethics survey

Chris Boake cboake at utk.edu
Sun Feb 23 15:12:40 EST 1997

Margaret Alic wrote a wonderful reply to the questions about
responsibilities of students, post-docs, and PIs.  I wanted to think about
the questions and prepare my own response, but have been up to my ears in
the usual faculty responsibilities, so I'll second her replies and add a
few comments.

First, I think the PI needs to encourage the grad student to publish
before graduating; this can make a huge difference to the student's future

Second, I like the idea of students "entering grad school in good faith,"
but I think that in some fields, the MS offers the student a useful way
out that is acceptable to all parties; the student can go elsewhere for a
PhD, or hit the job market.  It would be nice if students knew ahead of
time if they wanted to focus on the MS, but it is a useful degree for
someone who decides that research is not for her/him, having already
accomplished something worthwhile. If I know ahead of time that a student
is aiming for the MS, I don't feel that my resources are being wasted.  As
a member of our departmental graduate admissions committee, I know how
hard we try to identify the students who we think are applying in good
faith, but we have nasty surprises. Unfortunately the student's
soul-searching that can lead to a decision not to do graduate work often
doesn't start till year 2 or 3 of grad school. 

Here's one student responsibility that should be obvious, but
unfortunately can lead to difficulties.  If a student doesn't know how to
do something, the correct response is to ask.  Students are in school to
learn, and one part of learning is to recognize what you don't know.

I think that post-docs are in a potentially difficult position, serving
two masters.  On one hand there is the post-doc's responsibility to
herself, to publish her dissertation.  On the other hand there is the
responsibility to the PI, to conduct a worthwhile project and publish it. 
Post-docs actually have plenty of time to do both things, but most of them
don't realize it until they get _really_ busy as faculty members.

Advisers need also to encourage both students and postdocs to present
their results at regional and national meetings.  Such exposure is vital. 
My personal opinion (not shared by all my colleagues) is that it is not
worth attending a meeting if you don't have a presentation to make.  A
student who gives a presentation begins to feel like a success and a
colleague, which is enormously beneficial.

Margaret Alic said:
> I think both grad students and post-docs should be responsible for writing
> up at least initial drafts of their work.  And PIs should be responsible
> for publishing whatever is publishable.  

In my field (evolutionary biology), much of the student work is not funded
by the PI, and thus the responsibility for publishing is the student's.  I
expect my students to be first authors on their work and to submit the
papers to high-quality journals; I am a co-author if I have had
substantial intellectual input to the project, so some publications from
my group do not have my name on them.  I monitor the process of writing
and submission, and prod, but I think the student should be the
corresponding author unless there are exceptional circumstances. 

Because of the funding situation in my field, I think that it is also a
student's responsibility to try to get money to support a project, whether
a small grant from a professional society or support from the Dissertation
Improvement Grants program at NSF (not available for all disciplines,
unfortunately).  It is the adviser's responsibility to encourage the
student to make such applications, and to help improve the student's

Well, I have added a lot more than I intended.  I am very grateful to
Margaret Alic for posting her reply which gave me the impetus to think
about these topics.

Chris Boake
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
University of Tennessee

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