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Ethical issues in the Case of Graduate Student Platt and Proposed Solutions

Background
  • Scientific/Research Misconduct presented in this case as plagiarizing or stealing of scientific data/effort without giving credit.
  • Co-authorship issue presented by not including Platt name as she did a lot of efforts in Gleeson’s lab
  • Professionalism:
    • McClair who lied (hide the true intention) to Platt which is steal or get access through him to the data.
    • Deviation from primary advisor plan by Peggy and favoring Gleeson and providing the unpublished data.
    • Academic competition: It is uncertain, McClair wants to benefit Peggy or his collaborator Gleeson to make the work done in Gleeson’s lab.
    • Lack of communication between Jones and Platt and Jones not expressing or explaining clearly her point of view.
  • Conflict of issue.
  • Favoring by Gleeson to the postdoc student just for enhancement of career or for better job by getting access to the data.
  • Lack of standing by Jones to Peggy’s side.
  • It was inappropriate by Glesson and McClair to get the unpublished data from Platt, they should have contacted Jones and clarify the motives behind sending her to London.
  • At the same time, Jones should have been more open and should have acted like a good supervisor by giving direct and clear explanation about the reasons for her concerns to her studentregarding her trip to England to work on a similar project.
  • Platt should have realized her roles and responsibility and potential outcome of working on Gleeson’s lab and that can be responsibility for her supervisor, McClair, Geeson who should have explained the roles, responsibilities and plans.
  • Platts contribution should have evaluated by McClair and should have discussed with Jones and Gleeson.
  • The criteria for co-authorship must have mentioned earlier and agreed on between all research members. Platt needed to discuss and clarify things by directly asking Gleeson about her doubt of co-authorship the answer should have cleared all dilemmas, if it was a yes the Gleeson would have been bound to include Platt’s name, and if no,  then Platt could have left the project.

In the dilemma or ethical case of the graduate student “Platt”, unprofessionalism was unethical consideration in different occasions, the first was from McClair who was hiding the true intention/purpose to Platt’s going to England. Asking Platt to go work on a project by itself is not wrong, however asking the student to come to work on a similar research work for an unethical purpose of getting access to technical details or for the purpose of retrieving/accessing of unpublished data; then it is un-professional, un-ethical. The second occasion was by Platt deviating from her main advisor/mentor and deciding to go to work in a different lab. The third occasion occurred when Platt’s advisor did not express or explain his objection of the idea.

Other than professionalism, there was an issue of scientific misconduct. In this case, scientific misconduct was the plagiarism or stealing of scientific data/effort by being taken/ accessed by Gleeson and McClair due to Platt sharing of those unpublished data in different meetings/events during her work in England. Platt could be un-aware about the risk of those data being stolen/plagiarized without being given any credibility. Project manuscripts/data before being completed and prepared for sending for publication are considered as confidential documents and need to be protected and Platt was supposed to be aware of that. This was mistake of Platt but there was some responsibility on Jones; as not giving direct and clear explanation about the reasons for her concerns to the student regarding working in England in a lab with similar research work/interests. There was a co-authorship issue in this scenario, as Gleeson, refused putting Platt’s name on the publication of the project work that Platt participated effectively in. According to ICMJE criteria, “all people regarded as authors should fit for authorship, and all those who are fit must be listed”. The ICMJE outlines fundamental requirements for authorship, to be a co-author in a publication one must 1) help with manuscript drafting, 2) have contributed in the review of the article, and approval of final draft, 3) contributed in collection and/or analysis of data, 4) contributed in designing the study or execution and others. And so, Platt had enough contribution for which name should have been there and credit should have been given. The fact that Platt shared data, ideas and research materials, even help set up a certain lab methodology which is almost 50% of the work, it is ethically debatable that her name was not put in the publication. In this issue, Gleeson and McClair were wrong as they could have been straight forward with Platt that by putting Platt’s name in the research it might affect Gleeson’s position/job application. if everything was clear from the beginning Platt’s respond to working in Gleeson’s lab and co-authorship position could have been different. Moreover, Platt would have the choice to either withdraw or continue in supporting Gleeson’s Work.

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