1 Surviving in academia without selling ones soul A panel discussion moderated by K. Nandakumar Univ. of Alberta
Sources of pressure l University Top Notch gets a new president, who wants to move it higher by one notch! l He advocates a tougher tenure system. Only one in three will get tenure! l Is the tenure system imposing enormous pressure on young, new faculty to publish? l Is it an unfair practice? Is it unethical? l Does it have any positive features? l Should U of A (Chem Eng) follow it?
Transmitting the pressure èProf. Hot Shot (a new faculty member on tenure track stream) gets 3 grad students and lots of ($250,000) startup money! èProf. Shot has a great idea that might lead to fame & glory and tenure! èProf. Shot puts all his 3 students on the same project and tells them the one to finish first will get the PhD, Others will have to start over! èIs it ethical? What should the students do?
Joint Authorship Of Paper l Engineer A and Engineer B are faculty members at a major university. As part of the requirement for obtaining tenure at the university, both Engineer A and Engineer B are required to author articles for publication in scholarly and technical journals.
Joint Authorship Of Paper l During Engineer A's years as a graduate student he had developed a paper which was never published and which forms the basis of what he thinks would be an excellent article for publication in a journal. Engineer A discusses his idea with Engineer B and they agree to collaborate in developing the article.
Joint Authorship Of Paper l Engineer A, the principal author, rewrites the article, bringing it up to date. Engineer B's contributions are minimal. Engineer A agrees to include Engineer B's name as coauthor of the article as a favor in order to enhance Engineer B's chances of obtaining tenure. The article is ultimately accepted and published in a refereed journal.
Joint Authorship Of Paper l Was it ethical for Engineer A to use a paper he developed at an earlier time as the basis for an updated article? l Was it ethical for Engineer B to accept credit for development of the article? l Was it ethical for Engineer A to include Engineer B as coauthor of the article?
Credit for discovery of pulsars? l A much-discussed example of the difficulties associated with allocating credit between junior and senior researchers was the 1967 discovery by Jocelyn Bell, then a 24-year-old graduate student, of pulsars. l Over the previous two years, Bell and several other students, under the supervision of Bell's thesis advisor, Anthony Hewish, had built a 4.5- acre radiotelescope to investigate scintillating radio sources in the sky.
Credit for discovery of pulsars? After the telescope began functioning, Bell was in charge of operating it and analyzing its data under Hewish's direction. One day Bell noticed "a bit of scruff" on the data chart. She remembered seeing the same signal earlier and, by measuring the period of its recurrence, determined that it had to be coming from an extraterrestrial source.
Credit for discovery of pulsars? Together Bell and Hewish analyzed the signal and found several similar examples elsewhere in the sky. After discarding the idea that the signals were coming from an extraterrestrial intelligence, Hewish, Bell, and three other people involved in the project published a paper announcing the discovery, which was given the name "pulsar" by a British science reporter.
Credit for discovery of pulsars? l Many argued that Bell should have shared the Nobel Prize awarded to Hewish for the discovery, saying that her recognition of the signal was the crucial act of discovery. l What do you think?
Surprise Authorship, Credit and Responsibility l In your first year as a graduate student, you worked in a research team with two more advanced students and the supervising professor. Two years later, after the other students have graduated, you look through the proceedings of an important research symposium in your area and are surprised to come upon a paper coauthored by all four members of your former group, including yourself. One of the advanced students is listed as the first and corresponding author.
Surprise Authorship, Credit and Responsibility l The paper is in two parts. The first part represents some of your group work. The second part concerns a loosely related point of theory. There is no issue of fraud or incompetence: the presentation and conclusions in both parts of the paper appear respectable, though you are not familiar enough with the theoretical background of the second part to be confident about vouching for it. l What, if anything can or should you do?
What about my contribution? l For the first year of your graduate studies you worked with Professor Smart on the Hot Research project. By the end of the first year you made a small but notable refinement to the approach to the segment assigned to you. At the end of the first year Professor Smart went on leave for a semester and you started working on a different project with another supervisor in the same lab.
What about my contribution? l In the term following Prof. Smart 's return from sabbatical, you are told by another student still working on Hot Research that he and Prof. Smart are coauthoring a paper that incorporates your refinement. l What, if anything, can and should you do?
The Endless Dissertation l You have been pursuing doctoral studies in Engineering at X U for six years. You chose to do a thesis with Professor Z, despite having heard Z characterized as ``a slave-driver.''
The Endless Dissertation l You completed course work eighteen months ago and since then have worked solely on the thesis. During this period, you have submitted each chapter of the thesis to Professor Z; Z suggested incremental revisions in both methods and write-up which you have carried out. You now believe the original goals that the two of you agreed upon have been completed and you submit the final draft to Z.
The Endless Dissertation l Professor Z responds that it is wholly unsatisfactory and asserts that you must not only revise the thesis document, but do additional work on the experimental apparatus and collect substantially more data. You feel that the additions that Professor Z has demanded go unreasonably beyond the original scope of the project and will require another eighteen months to complete.
Advisor/Advisee: Pressure From Consulting l Student A has been a graduate student at MIT for three years, but has made little progress on a dissertation because of the heavy demands of being a Teaching Assistant. For the last year, A has had a Research Assistant position in Professor B's group. During this time A has settled on a thesis topic and started building a simulator to use for the thesis research.
Advisor/Advisee: Pressure From Consulting l One day Professor B tells student A to stop work on the simulator and write some code that he needs for a consulting project. Student A doesn't need the money and would rather work on his/her thesis, but is afraid that refusing might jeopardize his/her RA position. A confides this concern to C, another more senior student of Professor B. l What do you think of Prof. B?
Falsifying data l Engineer A is performing graduate research at a major university. During the course of research Engineer A compiles a vast amount of data. The vast majority of the data strongly supports Engineer A's conclusion as well as prior conclusions developed by others. However, a few aspects of the data are at variance and not fully consistent with the conclusions contained in Engineer A's report.
Falsifying data l Convinced of the soundness of his report and concerned that inclusion of the ambiguous data will detract from and distort the essential thrust of the report, Engineer A decides to omit references to the ambiguous data in the report. l Was it unethical for Engineer A to fail to include reference to the unsubstantiative data in his report?
Fair Credit and Time Pressure l Graduate student S has been working for Professor B building an apparatus for performing a particular photo-excited probe measurement on semiconductor devices. A preliminary paper on the method has been submitted by S & B to the Conference on Semiconductor Device Characterization.
Fair Credit and Time Pressure l Another student, J, a friend of S, tries the probe on his device, and, with S's help, gets some terrific results. J's supervisor, Professor D is very excited about the results and immediately suggests submitting a paper to the Device Research Conference, which has a submission deadline in a few days.
Fair Credit and Time Pressure l J quickly prepares the text of a draft abstract, and gives it to D for editing. D edits the abstract into final form and prepares to ship it by DHL to the conference referees. D shows it to J while they are waiting for DHL to pick it up. l J sees that the only listed authors are himself and D, and feels uneasy. l What do S & B deserve, and why? What can/should D do?
Is my soul intact? l Most importantly, learn to listen to your gut feelings. l The head can rationalize anything, particularly after the fact. Be bold and acknowledge errors of judgement. l Explore the web for more case studies. l Discuss such issues with friends, colleagues. Happy soul searching