Misconduct: to Bill & Kathy

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Tue Dec 26 14:31:42 EST 1995


(comment in the end - Alex Berezin)

On 26 Dec 1995, William Tivol wrote:

> Dear Kathy,
> 
> U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu wrote:
> 
> : I honestly don't think most people in the scientific community even
> : knows the definition of ethical behavior... let alone be able to
> : teach it?
> 
> 	You may be right, but there are some in the community who do know
> ethical behavior, and those can start the process so that more will know what
> ethical behavior is, and, I hope, will actually begin to behave ethically.
> 
> : >  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.
> 
> : I think you mean if ethical behavior was taught and cut-throat
> : competition was erased?
> 
> 	And more.  Those who behave unethically have to be punished.
> 
> : Because it truly does go hand in hand.  Otherwise... unethical
> : behavior does have the 'appearance' of being productive - it brings
> : in monies.
> 
> 	Which is why those guilty of misconduct should be barred from re-
> ceiving grants (if the sin is great enough).
> 
> : Well... all I can say is I would believe this if I saw Gallo *not*
> : get his new institute.
> 
> 	That would truly promote ethical behavior if it were the general rule,
> assuming what is alledged were true (I, myself, don't know for certain).
> 
> : Otherwise... it's beginning to feel as hopeless as watching OJ
> : walk.
> 
> 	I know the scientific community can do better; I hope it will.
> Happy new year.
> 				Yours,
> 				Bill Tivol
> 
BEREZIN:
Dear Kathy, Bill and others:

We generally can't do too much to change people. All we 
can't do is to change (improve) the SYSTEM to the point that 
the (partcicular type) of unethical behavior will not be
of a great ('Darwinian') advantage. 

In scientific research so far the grantsmanship, secrecy, etc
all encourage this (unethical) type of behaviour as the 
potential rewards of it still outweight the risks. 

To change that, we need to change the reward system.

For example (no matter how crude this scheme looks), let's
take the folowing count:

Professor A ("fat cat"): 
        Finding $ 500,000 per year
        Group produces 10 papers per year 
        Yield: 1 paper for $ 50,000


Professor B  ("small guy")
        Funding:   $ 50,000
        3 papers per year
        Yield:  1 paper per $ 17,000   (3 times better)

Present reward system ignores this (the 3 times better
efficiency) and by all categories (promotions, awards,
fame, etc) Prof A will be counted as superior, while 
small fish will likely be spit upon.

Should we take YIELD  (cost of paper) as a prime parameter,
the reward system will be immensely better and more
efficient. (I can foresee all the screams of "fat cats"
on such a proposals: of course, it is possible to improve
it beyond simple paper counting, but even the above would be
a step forward).

Alex Berezin



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