have honor councils that enforce rules against plagiarism and
other ethical lapses. The punishments in such cases can range
from a simple warning to expulsion from college. In professional
settings, punishments for misconduct can also vary. Some cases
lead to researchers agreeing to be closely supervised for a number
of years, while others involve retraction of papers and bans on
applying for federal funding. The first researcher to be sent to jail
for misconduct, Eric Poehlman, was sentenced to one year and one
day for his extensive fraud used to obtain more than a million dollars in federal grant money.
Research cannot exist without trust. What good is an experiment if everyone else must replicate it to believe it to be true?
What purpose does science serve if the public does not believe in
the integrity of the findings? The strength of science lies in the
ability for one person to pick up where another left off, to strive
for a greater understanding of the world. Science depends on
trust, and trust is rooted in honesty. Honesty includes crediting
another’s work and accurately reporting data. Learning to be a
good chemist requires not only mastering laboratory techniques
and data analysis, but also knowing how to share your findings.
Appropriate scientific conduct is important for all chemistry students to understand.
Jennifer Look is an assistant professor at Mercer University and a faculty
co-advisor for the ACS student chapter.
Lisa Bianco is a senior chemistry major at Mercer University and she is
applying to medical school.
Christine Wilson is a sophomore chemistry major at Mercer University, and
secretary of the ACS student chapter.
Matthew Bowen is a senior chemistry major at Mercer University, and he
plans to teach abroad after graduation.
Kirsten Brown is a sophomore computational science major at Mercer
University and historian of the ACS student chapter.
Imagine that you are a graduate student, and your research
group has an ongoing collaboration with the Goliath Corporation. You write a draft of a paper, and show it to everyone for
suggestions. Your collaborator at Goliath provides substantial
suggestions and rewrites a large chunk of the results section for
you. She asks not to be named as an author on the paper because
of the hassle of obtaining corporate permission to publish. What
should you do?
The practice of someone (often a company) publishing
research and hiding his or her possible conflict of interest by
obscuring authorship is called ghostwriting. This has recently
been deemed unacceptable by the ORI guidelines, but it has
always been correct practice to grant authorship to all people
(and only those) who make meaningful contributions to a project. All authors should read and approve of a paper before it is
submitted for publication. If a collaborator (or her company) has
contributed guiding ideas and interpretations along the way in
a project, they qualify for authorship regardless of whether they
contribute in a written fashion. Navigating corporate policies can
be difficult and time-consuming, so authorship considerations
should always be worked out at the start of a collaboration. For
further thought: Specifically, what sorts of things qualify someone as an author? Is it ever all right for a student to publish without his or her advisor being listed as an author?
For more information see ORI’s “ 26 Guidelines at a Glance on Avoiding
Plagiarism” at http://ori.hhs.gov/plagiarism-0
Researchers must understand how the rules of proper research conduct apply to whatever format they’re using to share information:
keeping lab notebooks, writing journal articles and reviews, preparing scientific posters and conference talks, or applying for grants, to
name just a few. If you always heed these six basic rules for avoiding
plagiarism, you should not run into problems.
• Clearly convey which ideas are original, and which are derived
from other sources.
• Exact words from another source must be enclosed in
quotation marks. When summarizing or paraphrasing ideas
from sources, use your own original words.
• Make sure all cited references are true to the original author’s
• Do not reference indirectly related people or unrelated works
in an attempt to increase impact factor.
• When in doubt, cite the source.
• Plagiarism applies to one’s previous work as well. This is
known as self-plagiarism, and extensive self-plagiarism is
grounds for retraction.
HINT: Use tracking programs such as Ref Works, EndNote, or Zotero
to maintain a list of sources and easily create proper citations.
TIP: The Retraction Watch blog ( retractionwatch.wordpress.com)
is a great resource for finding more information about research
misconduct. It is an interesting blog that describes cases such as the
most retractions for one author (183) and creative ways around peer
review (faking e-mail addresses to write your own reviews).