These materials are designed to provide motivation and content sufficient for an instructor to lead a workshop titled: “Mentoring for Responsible Research.” The long-term goal is to foster an environment in which research faculty are better empowered to initiate conversations within their research groups about the responsible conduct of research. Workshop participants are introduced to rationales, content, approaches, and resources so that they will have the means to develop and implement concrete, discipline-specific strategies for research ethics mentoring.
The Instructor's ...
The Instructor's Guide mirrors the syllabus and gives teaching notes and additional resources. A template for the workshop syllabus (in Word) format and two sample syllabi (Example Syllabus 1 and Example Syllabus 2) in pdf format are available for download.
NOTES TO THE INSTRUCTOR:
Based on real or contrived scenarios, case studies are a tool for discussing scientific integrity. Cases are designed to confront the readers with a specific problem that does not lend itself to easy answers. By providing a focus for discussion, cases help researchers to define or refine their own standards, to appreciate alternative approaches to identifying and resolving ethical problems, and to develop skills for dealing with hard problems on their own.
Many of the skills necessary to analyze case studies can become tools for responding to real world problems. Cases, like the real world, contain uncertainties and ambiguities. Readers are encouraged to identify key issues, make assumptions as needed, and articulate various options for resolution. In addition to the specific questions accompanying some cases, an effective analysis will typically address the following criteria:
Who is affected (individuals, institutions, a field, society)? What significant interest(s) (material, financial, ethical, other) do those affected have in the situation? Which interests are in conflict?
What specific, generalizable, and consistent principles (e.g., to tell the truth, to do no harm) are applicable to this case?
What other courses of action are open to each of those affected? What is the likely outcome of each course of action? What actions could have been taken to avoid the conflict?
Are the final choice and its consequences defensible in public (e.g., reported through the media)?
Most problems will have several acceptable solutions or answers, but a single perfect solution often cannot be found. At times, even the best solution will have unsatisfactory consequences.
While more than one acceptable solution may be possible, not all solutions are acceptable. For example, obvious violations of specific rules, regulations, or generally accepted standards of conduct would typically be unacceptable. However, it is also plausible that blind adherence to accepted rules or standards would sometimes be an unacceptable course of action.
Ethical decision-making is a process rather than an outcome. The clearest instance of a wrong answer is the failure to engage in that process. Not trying to define a consistent and defensible basis for decisions or conduct is unacceptable.
Cases are best seen as an opportunity to foster discussion among several individuals. As such, they might be most appropriate as an exercise to be used in the context of a research group meeting, journal club, or as part of a research lecture series.
During the lunch break, workshop participants will be assigned to small groups for the purpose of reviewing a case (scenario) describing a research ethics challenge. Ideally discussion group participants should be from diverse disciplines and people who do not already know one another well. This will increase the chance to better see challenges and find solutions for the case being reviewed. It also hopefully serves to increase personal connections among diverse members of the institution who can turn to one another with future ethics and ethics training questions or challenges.
How much is too much?
Qiao Zhi has recently arrived to work as a postdoctoral research in the United States from China. She studied English for many years as part of her schooling in China, but she had little real world experience in conversing and writing English. Qiao Zhi is a very talented scientist in her field
and quickly found a position in a research group, largely consisting of other Chinese researchers and with Professor Wang, who was trained in China as well. During her first year of work, Qiao Zhi was extraordinarily lucky to have made an interesting finding and Professor Wang encouraged her to write the work up for publication in the journal Science. Qiao Zhi struggled to write the paper in English, but soon found that with the help of the Internet she could easily find phrases written well in English to express concepts that she wasn't sure of. Professor Wang lightly edited the paper written by Qiao Zhi, they submitted it to Science, and it was accepted for publication. Six months later, one of Wang's colleagues was looking at the Déjà vu website (http://dejavu.vbi.vt.edu/dejavu) and discovered that Qiao Zhi's paper received a very high score for using text duplicated from other papers. Wang took the concern of possible plagiarism to the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) at his institution. The RIO appointed a committee to determine if Qiao Zhi should be found guilty of plagiarism, an example of research misconduct. You are a member of that committee and have been asked to decide whether frequent use of phrases from other papers is plagiarism and if doing so should result in sanctions or penalties.
Introduce yourselves to one another, pick someone to serve as discussion leader (responsible for keeping discussion on track and on time), and someone to keep a written summary of key conclusions. If not all members of the group have already been introduced to the case, the group leader should read the case aloud.
Collectively consider the (1) interests of individuals and groups in how this case is handled; (2) ethical principles or values at stake; (3) the alternative answers that might be considered as solutions; and (4) the rationales for selecting a particular choice of action agreeable to all.
As a group, figure out how best to articulate your findings of interests and principles that are at stake, the alternative answers to be considered, your recommended answer, and the rationale for choosing that answer.
Choose one member of your group to present your analysis, paying attention not just to the case per se, but also how this kind of exercise could be beneficial for your trainees.