A scenario about improving understanding of the mutual responsibilities of supervisors and trainees, authorship, data management and how to resolve conflicts and misunderstandings.
"On Being a Scientist" has a fine description of self-delusion as a major problem of the scientist. We are always influenced by our working hypothesis or preconceived notions.
A student is hard at work on an interesting research project. The professor is going to a meeting, a Gordon conference, in two weeks. She tells the student that she wants a certain set of experiments completed in time for presentation at the conference. The student works night and day and indeed compiles some data. The professor is thrilled because the data seem to support the professor's hypothesis. The student is worried because all the controls have not been done to the student's satisfaction.
A student pursues a long series of experiments that was designed together with the professor on a project of mutual interest. The student works for several years without much progress. The professor is still sure that the experiments should work. Perhaps the student is not working hard or well enough. The student is beginning to wonder about the soundness of the original idea.
by Terry Ann Krulwich, Dean of Graduate School
Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY