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Discourse On Research Ethics

Information On The Responsible Conduct Of Research

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Avoiding Conflicts Of Interest
[C&EN, Oct. 15, 2001]

Publishing rights revisited
[C&EN, July 30, 2001]

Who Has The Right To Publish?
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November 12, 2001
Volume 79, Number 46
CENEAR 79 46 pp. 24-31
ISSN 0009-2347
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Balancing obligations and interests surrounding dissemination of research is an arduous task


Integrity and trust. these values are the hallmarks of the scientific discovery and publication process. Being objective is critical to this process, because communicating one's research to the scientific community is at the heart of what keeps science alive. It's also the principal way that scientists make their reputations, get jobs and promotions, and obtain sustained research support.

IN THE BALANCE Themis, Greek goddess of justice, wisdom, and good counsel.
But whenever creative, and often competitive, people come together for an activity loosely bound by policies and ethical standards, occasional problems are to be expected. Gross scientific misconduct is rare, but subtler forms of unethical behavior are becoming more common. Misappropriated credit in publications, for example, can lead to some of the most contentious conflicts in the academic world.

In the current climate of academic research, publication has become trickier than ever. Projects are more collaborative. Institutions are more aggressive in turning intellectual property into products. Funding from commercial entities, which generally control whether and how results are published, is more significant. And principal investigators are more vested in commercializing their results. Who can publish what and when is no longer a purely scholarly issue.

Even though universities, professional societies, and journal publishers have publication policies and ethical guidelines outlining the standards that researchers should strive for, no one is adequately prepared to deal with disputes. When problems do arise, the system still relies on trust that those involved will act responsibly.

Graduate students and postdocs--who do most of the work--are often lost in this shuffle. Although the research community agrees that high ethical standards are worthy goals, few of these junior members of the scientific community receive any explicit training on publication practices and mores. Instead, they are expected to absorb their respective disciplines' standards by osmosis. Teaching ethics to researchers is not the key point--"ethics are caught, not taught," one saying goes. Rather, many think the focus needs to be on helping researchers to be prepared to work through problems together so that everyone involved will be satisfied with the outcome.

The relationship between the graduate student or postdoc and research adviser must come up when misconduct or academic disputes make headlines, observes Harvard University chemistry professor George M. Whitesides. "It's an issue that the scientific community probably doesn't spend enough time thinking about," he says. "Such issues connect to the entire question of what a graduate education should look like and what its objective should be. It also touches on the question of whether the rights of students in academic conflicts are adequately protected."

THE ACADEMIC SYSTEM is still confused about several things, Whitesides believes. For example, what are the rights, responsibilities, and capabilities of students and postdocs? "The point of being a student is that you are still learning to be a chemist," he says, "and thus do not necessarily have the perspective to make complicated scientific judgments. But having said that, students have rights.

"What should the expectations of students and faculty be when there are conflicts?" Whitesides continues. "What are the expectations in the important areas such as the right to publish, ownership of ideas, access to facilities, ownership of materials and tools, and ownership of intellectual property?"

The American Chemical Society has been the leader in developing ethical guidelines for authors, editors, and reviewers, notes philosophy professor Caroline Whitbeck, director of Case Western Reserve University's Online Ethics Center for Engineering & Science (OEC). ACS's "Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research" has not only been a model for statements by other professional societies, Whitbeck adds, but it has also led the way for guidelines from the editors of other scientific journals, such as the "Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals" published by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.

The ACS guidelines, first written in 1985 and subsequently revised by ACS journal editors, also anticipated the publication of the 1988 first edition of the National Academies' guidebook "On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research," which focuses on all aspects of research ethics. Whitbeck, one of the reviewers of the second edition, says it clarifies that the inability to control or monitor individual behavior is a critical element in the need for trust.

Lab heads often can't check every detail of their students' or their junior colleagues' work and must trust that it is good, she notes. Universities, journal editors, and reviewers trust the principal investigator to submit a manuscript that is accurate and true. And those who read journal articles trust all of the above, Whitbeck says.

"Teaching responsible research conduct is part of an adviser's obligation to help a student gain knowledge, skills, and judgment without exploiting the student as mere skilled labor," Whitbeck continues. "Avoiding conflicts ultimately depends on the ability of researchers to develop a greater awareness of the circumstances that can lead to disputes and to develop a lasting trust that differences of opinion can be worked out in the best interests of all parties involved."

TEACHING OR instilling values of research ethics ideally falls at the department level, Whitbeck believes. Sometimes universities offer a stand-alone course for students to meet National Institutes of Health requirements, she adds, but those courses can go only so far. "Often no one is helping the students and trainees with subtler and more common ethical problems," Whitbeck says. "This deficiency is especially likely when the focus of the course is the extreme behavior that counts as research misconduct."

An authorship dispute concerning a paper first submitted late last year to ACS's surface and colloid chemistry journal, Langmuir, brought many of the questions on research ethics and publication rights to the surface in the chemistry community (C&EN, June 18, page 40). At issue was not whether any researcher was afforded an opportunity to get due credit for contributing to the work, but whether one member of a group had the right to pursue the publication of his scholarly work without the consent of others in the group.

The paper describes an atomic force microscope (AFM) procedure for nanopatterning of DNA on a resist-covered gold substrate. The paper was written and submitted by Peter V. Schwartz, a former postdoctoral researcher in the group of chemistry professor Chad A. Mirkin of Northwestern University.

Schwartz, who is now a lecturer in the physics department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, says he alone invented the AFM nanopatterning method and collected the data for the paper in Mirkin's lab in August 2000. He acknowledges the help of several colleagues in the Mirkin group who prepared DNA starting material, helped him view results and analyze data by scanning electron microscopy, and provided other input. Prior to the experiments, Schwartz and other members of the Mirkin group had been having differences of opinion on interpreting the group's results on patterning DNA by dip-pen nanolithography, a related method.

Originally, Schwartz offered coauthorship of the paper to two group members, he tells C&EN, but they declined. Schwartz then included Mirkin as coauthor on a preliminary manuscript that he sent to Mirkin for comment. Mirkin says Schwartz was one of several contributors to the work and that he and the coworkers responded to Schwartz that the work was incomplete and that the manuscript was not ready to be published.

After Schwartz left Northwestern, he submitted the paper on his own to Nature, which rejected it. He then submitted the paper to Langmuir. The paper received good reviews, and it was accepted for publication in March.

Langmuir's editors notified Mirkin about the paper as it was ready to be published. Mirkin and the other coworkers objected and, in letters to Langmuir, asserted that the paper was not ready for publication and that it had been submitted without the group's or Northwestern's consent. In May, the ACS journals office decided to hold publication of the paper until the dispute could be resolved by the researchers, in accordance with ACS publication policies.

Mirkin indicated to Langmuir that publication of the paper at that time also could jeopardize the university's intellectual property rights. However, Northwestern's intellectual property interests in the work had been protected when Schwartz--at his own cost, he says--filed the related patent paperwork prior to independently pursuing publication of the work. Schwartz included Mirkin as a coinventor on a provisional patent application, Mirkin notes, but did so without the university's or Mirkin's knowledge or consent.

Schwartz says he only wanted to get the science into the research community so others could come to their own conclusions about the validity of his work. He believes the paper might never have been published otherwise, a situation that would have had an impact on the progress of his career, so he took extraordinary measures to protect his interests. On the other hand, Mirkin contends that he had no reason not to publish the work, once he and the other group members were satisfied with the accuracy of the results. Mirkin, Schwartz, and Northwestern Vice President for Research Lydia Villa-Komaroff each provided additional details of the events in letters to C&EN (C&EN, July 30, page 8).

A compromise allowed the paper to be published in September with Schwartz as the sole author [Langmuir, 17, 5971 (2001)]. An addendum was included explaining that the Mirkin group does not approve of the paper as it currently exists and plans to publish its own paper when the group believes the work is complete. In October, Northwestern filed for regular patent status for the AFM method and related work, listing Mirkin, Schwartz, and group members James J. Storhoff and So-Jung Park as coinventors.

Patenting increases incentives for faculty and universities to keep their findings secret for longer than they otherwise would.
"The historical way to resolve intellectual disputes in academic chemistry--industrial chemistry uses different processes--has been through publication of the conflicting works and then replication of the key experiments by expert members of the scientific community," Whitesides says. "The work that can be reproduced is then taken to be correct. Anything that interferes with this process makes it harder to distinguish correct from incorrect science," he notes. "Concern with intellectual property is one such interference."

The university has a right to protect intellectual property, Whitesides says, and has a legal obligation to do so. The research director has a professional obligation to ensure the correctness and accuracy of work reported in papers; a professional, ethical, and personal obligation to his or her students; and a personal interest in patents, he says.

Students have the same obligations about correctness and accuracy and perhaps also have an interest in intellectual property, he adds. The public pays for it all, and the government--as the steward of public monies--has an obligation to ensure that the public benefits in the broadest sense. "What happens when these various obligations and interests come into conflict?" he asks. "It is always amazing to me that they so seldom do."

SOME OBSERVERS believe that the few highly publicized cases of research misconduct--generally defined as falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism--are just the tip of the iceberg. Others suggest that the relatively few known cases indicate that the overall incidence of misconduct is low. However, these cases generally don't cover publication disputes, unless they involve plagiarism.

Publication disputes generally fall into four categories: A person is listed as an author but did not have a chance to review or approve the manuscript; a person was promised first authorship when the project was completed, but the principal investigator added the work of someone else, who then became first author; someone else claims they should be first author on the basis of the amount of work they did; and after a researcher had left a lab, the person did not receive credit in an article that includes his or her work.

A measure of the incidence of misconduct comes from the Public Health Service's (PHS) Office of Research Integrity (ORI), which covers research funded by NIH, and from the National Science Foundation's Office of Inspector General. These offices serve as the primary watchdogs for misconduct involving federally funded scientific research and handle investigations and disciplinary actions.

ORI receives a few hundred allegations of misconduct each year related to the more than 25,000 PHS grants that go primarily to researchers in biomedical fields. ORI subsequently opens fewer than 50 new investigations each year, and about one-third of them result in a finding of misconduct.

NSF receives some 30,000 proposals each year for its research and educational projects, and funds about one-third of them. The inspector general's office receives about 100 allegations of wrongdoing each year, and more than half of them are dismissed because of lack of evidence. Only a few of the allegations lead to administrative or criminal investigations.

Because publication disputes generally are resolved at the department or university level, the actual incidence is unknown but is generally believed by the scientific community to be significantly higher than gross misconduct. Anecdotal evidence suggests that 10 to 15% of all researchers are involved in some form of misconduct or inappropriate research practices at some point in their careers. However, there is no watchdog organization to monitor or handle practices that fall short of gross misconduct or to provide support to those who report them.

One point is clear: Although teaching ethics at universities is considered an important activity, it has largely been overlooked in the physical sciences. A newly completed survey of 32,000 graduate students and recent Ph.D.s released last month by the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students provides some basis for that assessment.

THE ONLINE SURVEY conducted during spring and summer 2000 includes responses from students representing nearly 5,000 doctoral programs at almost 400 institutions in the U.S. and Canada. The disciplines covered include the humanities, education, social sciences, life sciences, engineering, and physical sciences. The survey explored a broad range of issues related to implementation of educational practices recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, the Association of American Universities, and others.

More than 80% of the respondents reported satisfaction with their doctoral programs and advisers. However, despite increasing attention to ethics within academic fields, relatively few students report having had any training in ethics. The highest proportions of students reporting ethics training were those in education (71%) and life sciences (70%), and the lowest was in physical sciences (35%). Full survey results are available at

The last large-scale survey of research ethics practices was conducted in the early 1990s by the Acadia Institute, Bar Harbor, Maine, which is a nonprofit center that studies issues concerning medicine, science, and society. The study polled graduate school deans, 2,000 faculty, and 2,000 doctoral students in chemistry, civil engineering, microbiology, and sociology. Most of the faculty and students surveyed said they had not had any formal instruction in the responsible conduct of research. And even though most of the deans, faculty, and students said they believed that ethical preparedness training should be an important activity at universities, very few were active in making such training a reality.

According to the Acadia survey, the most effective ways students can learn about professional values and ethical issues and standards are by interaction with faculty in research work and by informal discussion of ethical problems as they occur. Discussion of issues in regular courses or in special courses was judged to be much less effective, and simply being exposed to codes of ethics and standards of professional organizations was judged to be even less effective.

The importance of interaction with faculty is echoed by OEC's Whitbeck. "To be constructive," she points out, "departmental discussions must overcome the discomfort that goes with the performance of an unfamiliar task--discomfort that only contributes to the tendency of discussions to either fizzle out or become acrimonious. Investigators who justifiably pride themselves on knowledge of their field and on the scrupulousness of their own practices are liable to be embarrassed by their inarticulateness on matters of research ethics.

"We must find ways to draw out the practical wisdom of investigators and provide opportunities for them to collectively consider the changing conditions of research and formulate norms of practice appropriate to these new conditions," Whitbeck says.

The work being done at OEC, which is funded by NSF, mostly is directed toward an emphasis on research responsibility rather than on misconduct. The center provides guidelines, articles, case studies, and recommended reading lists. Whitbeck's work on developing department-based, problem-solving discussions of responsible research conduct, which has recently been supported with a PHS grant, provides an effective way of meeting the new requirement that institutions provide ethics training to all faculty, students, and staff who are supported by PHS grants.

Whitbeck's project has three specific aims: to develop a modular educational series or short course in research ethics, some of which is now available at; to offer the series to diverse groups of students, trainees, and faculty in a range of university and medical school programs and to revise and refine it on the basis of that experience; and to disseminate problem-oriented course methods and materials and make them permanently available on the Web.

"Our method helps investigators learn how to learn about research ethics and how to discuss it productively," Whitbeck says. "In this way, it furthers the long-term objective of strengthening the research community's ability to recognize and address ethical problems in research practice, develop practices suited to present research conditions that embody high ethical standards of conduct, and transmit those values to future generations of investigators."

PUBLICATION RIGHTS is certainly an issue raised in the Langmuir case, Whitbeck notes, but the case also "touches on a great many issues about the responsible conduct of research: the supervisor-trainee relationship, intellectual property, responsibilities of journal editors, responsibilities of authors, research integrity, credit, and responsibility for research quality."

The issue of copyright transfer in the Langmuir case is uncertain, according to a legal expert contacted by C&EN. Mirkin, as the principal investigator, likely would have control of copyright because the work carried out by Schwartz as a postdoc could be considered as "work for hire." In question is whether Schwartz has First Amendment rights to proceed with publication and to transfer copyright of the work on his own without the consent of the others. ACS followed a commonsense approach, the legal expert says, holding off publication until Mirkin and Schwartz could work out the dispute themselves.

Most publishers of scientific journals have manuscript submission policies and ethical guidelines that cover the obligations of authors, editors, and reviewers. For example, ACS publishes its ethical guidelines and its "Preparation and Submission of Manuscripts" in the first issue of each volume of each of its journals.

The society's publication policy specifies that "all those who have made substantial contributions to the work" should be included in the manuscript's byline. The ethical guidelines add that it is the obligation of authors to include as coauthors those "who share responsibility and accountability for the results" and to obtain their assent. On the other hand, the guidelines also state that "an administrative relationship to the investigation does not of itself qualify a person for coauthorship." The guidelines further note that editors "should respect the intellectual independence of authors."

ACS is the largest publisher of chemical research in the world, and it receives about 35,000 manuscripts for its 31 journals each year, according to Mary E. Scanlan, director of ACS journal publishing operations. "It's interesting that very few problems arise," she notes, "but when they do, the issue is usually resolved by the authors."

"Many people worry that, as public science becomes increasingly governed by regimes of private rights, the progress of science will be threatened."
ACS JOURNAL editors don't need any formal training in publication ethics or practices when they start their tenures, she believes, because "our editors have high personal and scientific standards." When the occasional problem does occur, she adds, an editor may seek advice from a more experienced editor.

The Langmuir dispute has raised important questions about the ability of journal editors to sort out such conflicts, notes Ralph G. Nuzzo, a chemistry professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the Langmuir associate editor who handled the review of Schwartz's paper. "We're not Solomon; we're just scientists trying to edit a journal," he said in one press report on the dispute.

"In my mind, this is really a straightforward issue of freedom of speech," Nuzzo tells C&EN. "There are many rights we have to protect in a society such as ours, but there is only one--free speech--whose assurance is absolutely essential to protect all the others."

No universal standard exists for situations such as the Langmuir case when working with students, Nuzzo adds. "Students working on scholarly endeavors should not be construed simply as 'work for hire' in a legal sense," he believes. "The principal investigator and the students--who have done most of the work--have the same rights and interests in the publication of scholarly results. Does one have a superior right over the others? I think all parties have equal ownership rights."

Journals have no interests in the intellectual property side of an argument, he believes, but only in disseminating the scholarly work. In hindsight, Nuzzo thinks that Schwartz's efforts to publish the paper were reasonable. He says Schwartz believed that he had been fair and that the publication issue came down to a simple disagreement about how to proceed.

"The question that needs to be addressed is, What is the policy when the authors agree to disagree?" Nuzzo says. "Does one have the right to censor the other when only scholarly information is at stake, as opposed to intellectual property with potential financial gains to be had? How are editors supposed to decide on an issue when they don't know or aren't sure of all of the details? It is a difficult situation to be in," Nuzzo says, "but I believe--subject to an evaluation of the technical merits by peer review--that we should err on the side of free speech."

In contrast, Mirkin believes that the Langmuir dispute is not a free-speech issue because the research was collectively carried out and owned by the group. The group's members "were put in a very difficult position," Mirkin says. "No one wants to be part of a paper where the data might not be complete or verified, yet no one wants to lose recognition for their contributions.

"This has been a time-consuming process with no real winners," Mirkin adds. "Several of the students did lose a chance to complete a high-quality manuscript and publish it with their contributions recognized through coauthorship." That's because at this point, Mirkin believes, a follow-up to Schwartz's single-author paper would carry little meaning for the scientific community if it only verifies the results, provides additional data, and comes to nearly the same conclusions. In Mirkin's view, the reputation of journals "is of paramount importance to the chemical community, and therefore journals should err on the side of caution" when dealing with issues of authorship.

EDITORS LEARNED a great deal in the process of handling Schwartz's paper, notes Langmuir Editor David G. Whitten, who is cofounder and chief technical officer of QTL Biosystems, Santa Fe. "Among key decisions that editors have to make are determining if a manuscript should be sent for review and whether to notify an individual who may be affected by publication of the work in question," he points out. "Once an article has been favorably reviewed, it is the obligation of the editor to the scientific community to ensure that it is published." That position is held by several journal editors whom he has talked with, Whitten comments.

Whitten concurs with Nuzzo that intellectual property issues in general fall outside the purview of journal editors. "I do have great concerns over financial partnerships between principal investigators and universities because of the potential to override educational and scholarship issues in the mentoring of students and postdocs," he notes. Copyright issues, on the other hand, are important to editors, he says. "Editors generally have to take in trust that a properly completed copyright status form is truthful."

The wide variation among different academic disciplines--and even in different universities--about ownership of publication rights can make the editor's job more difficult, Whitten points out. "Even among senior principal investigators in chemistry, there are a great many who believe that, when there is a disagreement over whether a manuscript written by a student or postdoctoral fellow is correct or complete enough for publication, the principal investigator should simply decline authorship," he notes. The principal investigator can address his or her concerns over the paper in a separate note or paper, he adds.

Allocating credit for research has always been tricky. But in recent years, the question of financial rewards has further complicated the situation. The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act has had a lot to do with that.

Bayh-Dole has caused a shift in the way research universities operate by allowing universities and professors to own patents on discoveries or inventions made with the aid of federal research funds. Universities or professors in turn can license the patents or start companies to develop commercial products from the patented technology. Before Bayh-Dole, the federal government owned patents stemming from federally funded research, and it was an arduous process for universities to obtain patent rights.

COMPANIES HAVE now forged stronger links to the science conducted in academia, and many university scientists have acquired financial ties to industry. The changes have been drastic enough that university presidents now have effectively become chief executive officers, heads of university research offices act as chief operating officers, and many faculty are "intellectual entrepreneurs." In recent years, who controls university research has been the subject of journal discussions, conferences, and policy reports.

In October, the Association of American Universities' task force on research accountability issued a report that encourages universities to review and toughen procedures for dealing with situations in which researchers' financial interests might bias their conduct or reporting of research (C&EN, Oct. 15, page 9). Among several key values that the task force identified as desirable for protection from such concerns are commitment to academic freedom and commitment to open and timely communication and dissemination of knowledge.

For example, a principal investigator might choose to delay publishing a paper or choose not to publish results at all if there is potential or real agreement to license a new discovery or process. A principal investigator might do the same thing if earlier results have been shown to be erroneous but are the basis of current research funding or licensed patent agreements. This type of decision might extend beyond the principal investigator's scope to the university's research development office, which might ask for results not to be communicated.

THESE SITUATIONS could leave the junior colleagues who do much of the laboratory work without anything to show for their efforts. Although such conflicts might be rare, the report notes that "if they are not evaluated or managed, they may result in choices or actions that are incongruent with the missions, obligations, or values of the university."

Most universities own any intellectual property developed by their faculty and students and usually give the faculty member and other named inventors a share of any profits. By contrast, corporate employers generally don't share profits with the employee, although the employee may enjoy other benefits. Other issues for academics may not be about money but rather control over how what they have done is used--for example, books, videos, or other instructional materials.

Patenting increases incentives for faculty and universities to keep their findings secret for longer than they otherwise would, notes Julia Porter Liebeskind, an associate professor at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. Scientific discoveries that are published--including those in graduate theses and dissertations--or presented in a public forum such as a meeting generally cannot be patented afterward, or else publication significantly weakens the value of a patent, she notes.

MOST UNIVERSITIES limit such delays to less than six months. But the potential for stalling the careers of students, postdocs, and junior faculty is high, Liebeskind says, if they don't have publications to show what they have accomplished or are not allowed to discuss their research findings when giving talks at meetings or for prospective employers.

"Many people worry that, as public science becomes increasingly governed by regimes of private rights, the progress of science will be threatened," Liebeskind says. She has found that researchers are starting to curtail scholarly activities that have been the foundation of the traditional academic research enterprise. For example, professors may limit the size of their research groups, be reluctant to engage in casual conversation with colleagues and present new ideas at meetings, and no longer invite students or faculty to work in their labs on a visiting basis.

"It is clear that the rush to patent discoveries made by university scientists poses a new threat to the credibility of the university," she says. The practice raises concerns that academic freedom and the proper conduct of scientific research will be undermined by commercial motives, both those of the firms that fund research and of the university scientists who would profit from licensing revenues, consulting fees, and equity investments.

"The fix for all these problems is first to make patent royalties payable only to universities and not to scientists who may be faced with hard choices between public and private interests," Liebeskind says. Currently, most universities use a sliding scale of royalty sharing with faculty after patent costs are covered, she notes. This means that some faculty may end up receiving nothing, while others could profit handsomely.

"A second need is stricter rules regarding private financing of university research and faculty interests in outside firms," she continues. "What we are currently witnessing is the outcome of wishful thinking that the university can become a multiversity and still remain a source of impartially garnered knowledge," Liebeskind concludes.

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Discourse On Research Ethics

Caroline Whitbeck, director of Case Western Reserve University's Online Ethics Center for Engineering & Science:

"It is often observed that talking to one's trainees about research ethics is like talking to one's children about sex. Topics such as the apportionment of credit or the place of intuition in experimental work may be experienced as highly personal and potentially embarrassing. A further parallel between research ethics education and sex education is that if not given good information and opportunities to get answers to their questions, trainees will certainly pick up potentially damaging misinformation and share misunderstandings."

Julia Porter Liebeskind, associate professor, University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business:

"Researchers often keep their specific research topics and early findings confidential to prevent others from poaching their ideas. Keeping preliminary findings secret also has the benefit of preventing publication of unverified results. The concern, however, is that patenting may increase the period of secrecy and, sometimes, prohibit publication of research altogether if it is found to have commercial value."

From the National Academies' "On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research":

"The research system exerts many pressures on beginning and experienced researchers alike. ... All parts of the research system have a responsibility to recognize and respond to these pressures. Institutions must review their own policies, foster awareness of research ethics, and ensure that researchers are aware of the policies that are in place. And researchers should constantly be aware of the extent to which ethically based decisions will influence their success as scientists."

Philip Campbell, editor of Nature, on introducing a new policy for authors to declare any competing financial interests in relation to research papers:

"There is suggestive evidence in the literature that publication practices in biomedical research have been influenced by the commercial interests of authors. ... This evidence is consistent with the truism that although, in principle, science may be objective and its findings independent of other interests, scientists can be imperfect and subjective." [Nature, 412, 751 (2001)]

From the American Chemical Society's "Chemist's Code of Conduct":

"Chemists should seek to advance chemical science, understand the limitations of their knowledge, and respect the truth. Chemists should ensure that their scientific contributions, and those of their collaborators, are thorough, accurate, and unbiased in design, implementation, and presentation."

From the American Chemical Society's "Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research":

"These guidelines are offered not in the sense that there is any immediate crisis in ethical behavior, but rather from a conviction that the observance of high ethical standards is so vital to the whole scientific enterprise that a definition of those standards should be brought to the attention of all concerned." (Available at

From "On Academic Authorship" in Stanford University's "Research Policy Handbook":

"Surely many problems can be ameliorated by a constant awareness of the special duty of faculty to foster the intellectual growth and independence of their students, by a habit of generosity in giving as much credit to their contributions as is consistent with realistic appraisal, and by the meticulous observation of strict standards of citation and acknowledgment." (Written in 1985 by then-university-president Donald Kennedy, who is now editor-in-chief of Science)

Judith P. Swazey, president of the Acadia Institute, from "Teaching the Responsible Conduct of Research: The Why, the What, and the How," a Sigma Xi panel discussion:

"To me, misconduct is almost the least important facet of learning about and engaging in the responsible conduct of research. There are more--and more complex--issues in the everyday conduct of research and life of a lab group that arise in developing research proposals, in performing and analyzing research, in reporting findings, and in the professional interpersonal relationships between members of a research group." (

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Information On The Responsible Conduct Of Research

Most universities have a policy handbook governing the responsible conduct of research, as well as guidance on publishing and patenting practices. In addition, a number of professional societies and government agencies have publications and policy reports on research ethics and related issues. Here is a sampling of what's available.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

AAAS's Scientific Freedom, Responsibility & Law Program provides a broad forum for ethical, legal, social, and other issues related to science and technology, including the online Professional Ethics Report ( Through Science's Next Wave online careers publication, AAAS operates a national Postdoc Network to meet the career and professional development needs of postdoctoral researchers (

American Chemical Society

ACS publishes its "Preparation and Submission of Manuscripts" and "Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research" in the first issue of each volume of each of its journals. ACS also has its widely known "Chemist's Code of Conduct," and the ACS Committee on Professional Training produces "Guidelines for the Teaching of Professional Ethics." All four documents are available online by using the society's home page search function (

National Academies

The National Academies have issued many reports and publications on responsible conduct in science. Read free online or purchase in bulk "On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, 2nd ed." (; "Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers" (; and "Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering" ( Other related titles are available from National Academy Press (

National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General

The investigative body for NSF, OIG has the online publication "Misconduct in Science and Engineering" and the brochure "A Brief Guide to the NSF's Policies and Procedures on Misconduct in Science and Engineering;" downloadable free ( Also available free online are "briefings" for administrators and for students, as well as case studies for principal investigators and faculty.

Public Health Service Office of Research Integrity

The investigative body covering the National Institutes of Health, ORI has a grant program to fund research on research integrity as well as several publications on its policies and procedures, including guidelines on misconduct and on whistle-blowing; downloadable free ( Proceedings from "Conference on Research Integrity," held in November 2000, cover a range of research integrity issues, including tools for measuring research integrity and research ethics training; downloadable free (

Sigma Xi

"Honor in Science" is a well-known guide to ethics and values in research; first published in1984, $3.00. "The Responsible Researcher: Paths and Pitfalls" covers ethical issues that have arisen since "Honor in Science" was first published; $3.00 ( Proceedings from "New Ethical Challenges in Science & Technology," a forum held in November 2000, are downloadable free (

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