Monday, November 5, 2018

Physician's Unethical Research Potentially Harmed Patients

An anesthesiologist may have caused harm to surgical patients including kidney damage and death through his flawed research and potential misuse of "intravenous solutions containing hydroxyethyl starch, or hetastarch, which doctors use to stabilize the blood pressure of patients during and after surgery or trauma" ("A Scientist's Fraudulent Studies Put Patients at Risk," Science, October 26, 2018). Joachim Boldt who worked at an academic teaching hospital in Germany "likely fabricated data, ignored ethics rules, and committed other kinds of misconduct in 98 articles he published with co-authors."

Discussion Questions:
  1. What do you think made this doctor seemingly put his patients in danger due to his unethical research?
  2. If you worked with this doctor as an assistant and saw problems with his research, would you discuss the issue with him? Why or why not?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Student Loses College Degree 15 Years after Graduation Due to Plagiarism

After a master's thesis was corrected for plagiarism and a degree awarded, it was examined by a plagiarism checker years later and more plagiarism was identified leading to a professor losing his degree ("Judge Upholds University's Right to Rescind Master's Degree over Plagiarism," Calgary Herald, September 19, 2018). John Measor tried unsuccessfully to get the University of Calgary to let him keep the degree based on the fact that it had already been given to him, so he took his case to court. However, the judge sided with the university because the "power to award degrees necessarily implies the power of rescission." Justice Richard Neufeld in his decision also noted that "institutional integrity" requires a school to uphold the value of its degrees by taking back one that incorporated academic dishonesty.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Does this case change your opinion about the importance of academic integrity when you create coursework for your classes? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think the university was justified in taking back the degree years after it was given due to plagiarism by the former student? Why or why not?
  3. The news story mentions that John Measor also changed his story about the plagiarized thesis during the various hearings. Would you rule in his favor and let him keep the degree if he wasn't clear about what really happened? Why or why not?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Save Your Data (and Your Job) to Prove Your Research Results

An investigation into flawed research brought down a once-noted Cornell University professor who now has had thirteen papers retracted ("This Ivy League Food Scientist Was a Media Darling. He Just Submitted His Resignation, the School Says." The Washington Post, September 20, 2018). One of the problems is that Brian Wansink's results cannot be verified because data in its original form was not kept. Another related article from Vox stated that his lab employees cherry-picked favorable results to support hypotheses.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do you think the professor's reputation has been permanently harmed by these accusations? Why or why not?
  2. Vox suggests that professors are under pressure to publish results that support their hypotheses instead of discussing why research didn't work or other questions of significance. If keeping your job depended on only finding statistically significant results in your research would you be tempted to alter results to fit your hypotheses? Why or why not?
  3. It was also mentioned that "Wansink had a knack for producing studies that were catnip for the media." Do you think the professor wanted more publicity for his work, so he succumbed to shoddy research practices to get anything and everything published to feed his ego? Why or why not?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

British Singer-Songwriter Accused of Adding Copied Elements of Another Artist's Song

After dealing with two previous legal disputes on using parts of other's songs, the Grammy-winning Sheeran is now defending himself against charges that he included "melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing chorus, tempo, syncopation and looping” from a Marvin Gaye 1970's tune in his song, "Thinking Out Loud" ("Ed Sheeran Sued Again Over ‘Thinking Out Loud’ — This Time for $100 Million," Variety, June 28, 2018). The other two copyright infringement incidents involved the songs "Photograph" and "The Rest of Our Life."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Since there are only so many notes in the musical scale, do you think it's easy to copy someone else's work? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think Sheeran's reputation with his fans will suffer from this negative publicity? Do you think fans will stop listening to his music if it seems he's not creating new music on his own? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think other singers and songwriters will not want to work with him for fear he will use their work in his "compositions?" Why or why not?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Quizlet App Misuse by University Students in Texas

Texas Christian University students received failing grades (but later had their suspensions cancelled) for using the Quizlet app to gain an unfair advantage in testing, calling into question the unethical aspects of this study help when students upload current test questions and share them ("Learning Tool or Cheating Aid?" Inside Higher Ed, May 14, 2018). While Quizlet posts an honor code on its web site, students may not know in advance that they are viewing a test question that will be on an upcoming exam. But if they see a Quizlet question on an exam, they are obligated to alert the professor that the question was seen online before the test. One professor noted that it would be best to rework questions each semester, but there may be a limit to how many different configurations can be used to state a question.

Discussion Questions:
  1. What would you do if you saw a question from Quizlet on an actual test?
  2. Should professors create new tests each semester to minimize cheating from students who share test questions from past exams? Why or why not?
  3. How could Quizlet be changed to prevent students from cheating?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Physician Accused of Scientific Misconduct and Fraud

A physician's credentials are being called into question but the National Academy of Medicine is finding it difficult to remove him as a member after he was found to have "plagiarized five research papers, fabricated an account of his personal exploits in Iraq, and claimed unearned degrees and awards" ("Doctors Urge Elite Academy to Expel a Member Over Charges of Plagiarism." The New York Times, April 9, 2018). The article discusses the impact of this academic dishonesty on the doctor whose work was misused and the medical textbook editors who didn't check for plagiarism before their book was published.

Discussion Questions:
  1. How would you feel if a colleague of yours said he was the author of your research?
  2. Should doctors be held to the same standard of academic integrity as college students? A higher standard? Why or why not?
  3. Should all books be checked for plagiarism before being published? Why or why not?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Academic Dishonesty Returns to Cancer Research Lab

The Ohio State University (OSU) reported that one of its former star cancer researchers (who resigned in fall 2017) used false results fourteen times in eight reports ("University Is Quick to Disclose Misconduct." Science, April 6, 2018). Most notable about this revelation was that OSU was very forthcoming with this information almost immediately after concluding its investigation. The article mentions that OSU has been under fire for badly handling other recent scientific misconduct on campus including another cancer researcher who was the subject of a New York Times investigation.

Discussion Questions:
  1. If you received millions of dollars to conduct research, would you feel obligated to report more promising results than you actually observed so you could continue to get funding? Or would you clearly state what occurred in your research? 
  2. A university's reputation suffers harm and its research programs stand to lose external funding if researchers are not conducting and reporting results honestly. Do you think OSU was trying to repair damage from past incidents by reporting this story very quickly? Why or why not?
  3. If you were a student researcher in a lab where misconduct was occurring, would you risk your reputation and career to report the academic dishonesty of fellow students and/or professors? Why or why not?

Friday, February 9, 2018

UT Student Punished for Seeking Copies of Old Math Exams on Facebook

A University of Texas student who went online to request copies of old math tests by a professor received a penalty ("UT Student on Academic Probation after Posting in Facebook Group." The Daily Texan, January 29, 2018). While the university administrators said that they do not monitor online student activity, they will act if they are alerted about a suspected student conduct infraction.

Discussion Questions:
  1. While we do not know if the student actually received any of the requested exams and the answers to the questions, do you think it's fair that the student is put on academic probation for the act of asking for the exams? Why or why not?
  2. What should happen if a student supplied old exams by a professor upon request? Should that supplier get the same punishment as the requester?
  3. Do you think studying the old exams gives a student an unfair advantage in future testing? Why or why not?

Monday, January 15, 2018

College Courses Prepare Students for Ethical Issues at Work

In a time of polarizing workplace issues, professors are asking students to consider their moral and ethical obligations on the job beyond the bottom line ("Business Schools Now Teaching #MeToo, N.F.L. Protests and Trump." The New York Times, December 25, 2017). "Students have said ethical issues, not finances, are a business’s most important responsibility, according to a survey of business school students worldwide conducted by a United Nations group and Macquarie University in Australia."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Although a campus discussion of ethical and moral responsibility at work can be useful, how does a recent college graduate face corporate culture that condones discriminatory behavior?
  2. If you have experienced unethical actions at work, how did you handle the situation? Was the outcome fair to all parties affected?
  3. If a student in college does not already possess a moral compass of right and wrong, can a college class positively change his/her perceptions and actions? Why or why not?