ethics and naivete

Caroline J. Walker walkerc at CLEMSON.EDU
Sat Jun 13 01:16:33 EST 1998

I do not like to admit that women are more inclined to get suckered into
helping other students cheat either by their naivete or just their good
will to "help" - but I guess I would have to agree that this might be the
case.  In some ways though, the ethical issues faced as an undergrad are
fairly straightforward - we can all understand what cheating is.  I think
that where women get a harder time is maybe on in their scientific careers
when issues start to get fuzzy.
	For example, a postdoc works hard with a grad student in the lab,
directing a lot of their project- should the postdocs name go on the paper?
This is always a difficult issue, but it is complicated by the fact that
women's contributions have the tendancy to be taken less seriously i.e. if
the postdoc was male, the lab head might be more inclined to give him
authorship.  Another example - a grad student is very close to graduating
and the committee/project director have to decide when its OK to stop
research and start writing the paper.  At this point the grad student is a
skilled worker and an asset to the lab - should one insist on another
semesters work or push the student to write up, apply for jobs and get
their career going?  Again, I think that the female grad student's career
is less likely to be taken seriously and she is more likely to get told to
hang around for the extra time.  I also remember reading an ethics case
outlined in Science where a female postdoc spent her evenings investigating
a hunch that she was told not to bother following up by the lab director.
I can't remember the details too much, but the hunch turned out to be a
winner and I think the lab director ended up stealing the project - anyway,
would he have treated the postdoc in this way had she been male - would he
have been more inclined to seek her cooperation and work as collaborators
rather than cut her out altogether??
	I hear and see a lot of examples of this type of thing going on.
None of it is obviuos enough that the women concerned would have a good
chance at a grievance.  It is subtle enough that it would not be worthwhile
ruining the chance of a good reference.
	Perhaps we should try and put together tips on how to avoid these
situations in the first place from those of you who have found some
solutions?  Anyway, an ethics course/ informal discussion group for female
scientists in grad school and beyond would be very worthwhile and I have
toyed with the idea of trying to get something going in my department.
Does anyone have a good book reference or web site that they have used as a
source for running this kind of a course?

More information about the Womenbio mailing list