Ethics Question

wijsman at wijsman at
Fri Aug 20 19:54:31 EST 1993

>       I am posting this question regarding research ethics for a friend of
> mine. His situation is as follows. His position allows him to act as coPI
> on grants. In order to be coPI, insitutional permission must be obtained;
> PI status is normally reserved for faculty. Recently, his supervisor asked 
> him to write a grant request, on which both he and his supervisor would be
> PI's. He did so, including solely his own ideas and notions regarding a
> project he had long been interested in but had had no support for. His
> supervisor read the finished product and approved it without change. My 
> friend then went on vacation. Upon his return, he discovered that (a)
> permission for him to act as PI had never been requested; (b) his name
> had been whited out (literally) from the grant request; and (c) it had
> been submitted in his absence. He is somewhat upset (read "chainsaw mad")
> about the matter, but wants to know if his anger is reasonable. Does his
> supervisor have the right to act in this manner? Is his behavior
> reasonable or ethical?
The supervisor's behavior is most unethical, especially since it
sounds like with the failure to ask for permission for the junior
person to act as PI followed by deletion of his name on the grant,
there may be intent to  defraud (or whatever the equivalent would be
for ideas) on the part of the supervisor.  This could require (1) an
appointment (on the part of the junior person) first with the dept.
chair, and then, if that doesn't work, (2) with the university
ombudsman (assuming there is one), or even higher up.  The whole
affair sounds rather like plaigerism; however, if the junior person
really wrote the grant he probably has (dated) computer files which
the senior person won't have, and/or other supporting evidence with
which to support his claims of being wronged.
Ellen Wijsman
Div of Medical Genetics, RG-25
and Dept of Biostatistics
University of Washington
Seattle, WA   98195
wijsman at

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