Misconduct...reply to Kathy

William Tivol tivol at news.wadsworth.org
Fri Dec 22 14:42:03 EST 1995


U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu wrote:

: All I do know is that this idea of teaching more courses in ethics
: [as proposed in July's issue of Science on misconduct]... that this
: is not the answer.  Again, it's liking spitting to put out a fire.

	You are correct that teaching ethics courses is not the answer,
but I think it can be *a part of* the answer.  What needs correcting, as
you and many other posters have pointed out, is the attitude of the scien-
tific community at large.  Alex's point about the destructive nature of
cut-throat competition is also well taken.
	When each of us started out, the ideal of science as a search for
the truth motivated us to get into the field.  Your experience--as you have
said before--motivated you to get out.  If ethics was taught at the start,
and *if unethical behavior was seen to be counterproductive*, then the
scientific community has a chance to propagate ethical behavior.
	In order for this to occur, unethical behavior must not be rewarded,
and there must be obvious, observable benefits to behaving ethically.  In-
stead of whistle-blowers being blackballed and whistle-blowees being moved
up to positions of ever-higher prestige, those shown to have committed mis-
conduct should be (depending upon the seriousness of the offense) either
jailed for outright fraud, barred from grant funding for a period of time
in the case of serious misconduct which materially affected their work, or
reprimanded for such minor offences as plagerizing their own work (using
the same Introduction and Materials & Methods sections verbatum, rather than
referrencing the earliest paper), etc.  Some examples where this kind of
thing actually occurred would add impact to an ethics course, and, even more,
if this was seen throughout one's career, an attitude adjustment is a very
possible outcome.
				Yours,
				Bill Tivol



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