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Egregious Scientists & Misconduct in Science: Responsible Conduct for Research Jeopardy

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: March 30, 2015

Postdoctoral trainees and graduate students joined in a game of Responsible Conduct for Research (RCR) Jeopardy as part of the March’s Spotlight on Research Integrity workshop.

The Spotlight on Research Integrity is a monthly workshop that features notable speakers from inside and outside of the university and is designed to promote meaningful and sometimes controversial discussion of difficult issues in contemporary biomedical research.

Dr. Linda McManus, director of Postdoctoral Affairs at the UT Health Science Center, explained that the workshop was designed to help people learn about responsible conduct.

Trainees are generally aware but not really in depth aware of RCR. We teach them a course the first year of graduate school and postdocs have also received training but details are elusive,” Dr. McManus said. “Until you have to use it or think about it or answer questions about it you don’t incorporate it into your routine. I wanted to help them realize that there are a lot of things going on around them.”

Dr. Teresa Evans, director of the Office of Career Development, said that using the Jeopardy format was a good way to interact with the audience.

“The goal was to showcase responsible conduct of research topics in an innovative and fun way,” Dr. Evans said. “We wanted to make sure that we stimulated discussion but also provided maximum opportunity for interaction.”

The game was centered around five topics: egregious scientists, rules and enforcers, authorship, misconduct and science and society. The categories were chosen because of topics by the National Institute of Health.

“Many of the trainees are on NIH grants and it’s important for them to engage in a continuous discussion about responsible conduct,” Dr. McManus said.

Mikaela Sifuentes, a Ph.D. candidate in the pharmacology program, said that responsible conduct is extremely important for researchers.

“Research is highly competitive and researchers are used to meeting high expectations. By looking at examples of bad science, unethical practices, and how this impacts society, we can get a better grasp on how misconduct can really have destructive effects,” Sifuentes said. “It’s important for grad students and trainees to learn about responsible conduct in research because the temptation to embellish data, look the other way, and cave in to pressure is strong.”

Dr. McManus explained that responsible conduct reflects the state of science and misconduct taints that image.

“You don’t have to memorize the manual but you do need to realize that the rules exist and they should be aware of them,” Dr. McManus said. “You don’t want to be on the front page of the paper. If the public sees data embellished by a scientist, it will lead to wider distrust. It’s important for our trainees understand these issues and how they reflect on us as a whole.”

Sifuentes agreed and believes that misconduct not only builds mistrust in the community but overall hurts the research environment.

“By bending the truth, cutting corners, or promoting an agenda, irresponsible scientists set us back in terms of the data they have produced and the research that was based on that misinformation,” Sifuentes said. 

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