Professional ethics: Publishing a student's project

Michael Torok mtorok at
Tue Jun 27 10:36:46 EST 1995

Samuel M. Scheiner (sam.scheiner at wrote:
: Here is a question on the ethical treatment of a student. I have a MS student 
: who completed a research project almost a year ago. In the last nine months he 
: has done almost nothing to complete analysis of the data or write up the 
: results for his thesis despite repeated discussions with me and his committee. 
: At this point I have serious doubts whether he will ever finish.

: Ethical decisions:

: 1. How long should I wait before I simply take the data and publish it myself, 
: with him as co-author of course? What sorts of ultimatums are reasonable?

: 2. [Just to broaden the discussion] Does the extent of my imput matter? In 
: this case I provided the initial idea, much of the detail on experimental 
: design, and a fair amount of labor both directly and indirectly by hiring 
: extra help. [And you ask, how much work did this guy actually do?] But, can 
: we come up with general principles?

I would argue that despite your input into this student's project, it is 
not your work to publish without his approval. If this person was a lab tech 
that was hired to simply perform the details of an experiment under your
direction, the situation would be different. The fact that you advised 
(something you are supposed to do for your graduate students) do not make 
his project yours. Unless there has been clear negligence on the part of 
this student in carrying out the experiment I would say you are stuck do 
what you can to convince him to publish.
Michael L. Torok, M.S.              |    Specializing in:             
Consulting Wildlife Biologist       |     -  radio-telemetry          
Internet: mtorok at         |     -  custom engineering and   
Phone: 408-336-4530                 |        computer programming     
FAX: 408-335-3115                   |     -  marine environment       

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