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All in the Interpretation
All in the Interpretation



Author(s) Simil Raghavan
Authoring Institution Online Ethics Center
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Contributor(s) Simil Raghavan
Year 2011
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Rights (c) National Academy of Engineering For more information on permissions to use this material please see:
Format Text
Language English
Publisher National Academy of Engineering, Online Ethics Center
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  • Mark Frankel

    Posted 9 years ago

    Author(s): Mark Frankel

    This case deals with several important issues, but one thing readers should note is that a conflict of interest does not exist because you "know" or "desire" something.  There must be a context/situation that would trigger a conflict.  So, in the example of a judge who recuses himself from a case, the context is some sort of litigation requiring recusal.  Sometimes a researcher will find herself in a situation, either created by herself or others (e.g., her mentor's industry funding), where she has to act accordingly.  Hence, the context/situation triggers a behavior that will determine (1) whether she has a conflict of interest, and (2) whether it is or is not likely to affect her research.  To summarize, the important questions are not whether Kate has "knowledge of" or "desire to"--neither knowledge nor desire constitute a conflict of interest per se.  She has to act on that knowledge or desire in order to trigger a conflict.  Even then, having a conflict is not a priori good or bad; what's critical is how one deals with it. 

  • Joan E. Sieber

    Posted 9 years and 1 month ago

    Author(s): Joan E. Sieber

    This is an excellent case because it illustrates the subtle and diverse pressures that may influence researcher behavior. It is a great example of COI, bias, career pressures, challenges of dealing with the press, and challenges of dealing with criticism. It incorporates all of the things that most researchers have encountered in one form or another. The best part of the case is that Kate is basically a moral person, and she had qualms from the very beginning. Yet, she has ventured down the slippery slope and is now is a position that is uncomfortable, yet safe because her present career direction is different from the one that took her down the slippery slope. The final question is whether she has an obligation to open herself up to criticism now that she is safely off on a different line of research. So she is still under subtle pressure not to do the right thing. And we can all empathize.

    The case is designed to make the learner wary and uncomfortable because we can all identify with poor Kate. We all know Dr. Briggs and all know the career pressures Kate feels. Great case!

Cite this page: "All in the Interpretation" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 7/28/2011 OEC Accessed: Thursday, September 17, 2020 <>