Ethics in research question

Michael Holloway ak949 at yfn.ysu.edu
Thu Aug 19 12:02:44 EST 1993


In a previous article, wijsman at max.u.washington.edu () says:

>expectation of confidentiality, such as that expected of reviewers.  If a
>scientists gives a talk (in particular a public talk, such as a talk at a
>different university - publish means to make public & does not necessarily
>mean that a written document must be produced) it is perfectly reasonable
>that information derived from the talk can be used in *other* experiments
>by the listeners.  However, this does not apply to a repeat of the *same*,
>or essentially the same, experiment under the guise of independent
>research.  The problem with the situation (as posed originally) is that the
>big lab apparently published the small lab's experiment *as if* it was
>independently derived *after* hearing the experiment.  The publication thus
>implies an independently derived idea, which was false (i.e., a lie).  This
>is why the behavior was unethical.

But when the idea is something as trivial as the application of a 
single, readily available, technique to a gene that is already under 
study by the people involved it becomes more difficult to be sure 
about what is actually occurring.  In the scenario it's not so much 
an idea being stolen as the big lab cashing in on the risk 
undertaken by the small lab when they make the effort to see if the 
technique gives *useful* results.  We all do that every day, 
generally from published results.  What if the big lab could prove 
that they had made attempts at this technique previous to the small 
lab revealing anything?  If this were the case, I think that they 
could make a good claim of pursuing their work independently of 
anything the small lab might have told them - whether or not their 
story were true.

Reading your posts I've concluded that I've been confusing "ethical" 
behavior with "enforcable" behavior when thinking about this 
scenario.  The community standards of ethics in research don't 
necessarily have to meet the standards of courts do they?  Whether 
or not it could ever be proved they might still have committed an 
unethical act.
-- 
Michael Holloway
E-mail: mhollowa at ccmail.sunysb.edu (mail to freenet is forwarded)
phone: (516)444-3090



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