Training Versus Practice: Contradictions in the Ethics of Authorship Dawn A. Joseph, Leah M. Lozier, Karen Gale 225.

Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience, Georgetown University, Washington, DC

A major theme that emerged from the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate (CID) deliberations was "fostering professionalism" in the context of training graduate students to integrate into the broader professional community. A major challenge in this regard is the gap between the professional ethical standards that students learn in the classroom and the variety of professional practices that they will confront in the "real world." Training doctoral students in scientific ethics and responsible conduct often creates a disconnect with practices in laboratories of faculty who themselves have not received this type of formal training. In the classroom, students learn standards and policies that guide responsible conduct in research only to find some of them implicitly or explicitly contradicted in research laboratories. A common example concerns 'honorary' or 'gift' authorship (Grieger 2005). The pressure to publish poses a great challenge for decisions regarding the assignment of authorship (Bennett 2003). Here we describe a mechanism to prompt students and faculty to engage in honest discourse about best-practices their application, with the goal of facilitating shared responsibility and understanding between mentors and trainees.

The Case
Count: faculty responses

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Bob Powell, a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry, has just completed a manuscript detailing the results from the first project in which he had taken a leading role. The focus of his project has been to discern the ways in which humans metabolize sulfites, a class of chemicals commonly used to preserve wines and dried fruits. Although he had developed the rough outlines of the project on his own, he owes much to individuals both inside and outside his lab. The assistance he received from others includes the following: 1) A colleague at another university, a toxicologist specializing in food additives, shared with Bob his previous work on the in vivo activity of sulfites, information that allowed Bob to choose the ideal animal model for the experiment -- the Abyssinian field mouse. 2) A friend of his, who happened to be a wildlife specialist, provided Bob with much advice on rearing and maintaining a colony of Abyssinian field mice such that he would have a stable pool of animal subjects. 3) A highly experienced technician in the lab gave Bob advice on modifying an assay he had been using, which finally allowed him to measure successfully sulfite metabolites in mouse urine. This technician also assisted in writing up the methods section of the paper. 4) The number of assays that Bob had to conduct was quite sizable and more than he could manage on his own, given other demands of the project. Thus, an undergraduate college student collected most of the urine samples and conducted the assays yielding the data. 5) Finally, a senior researcher in a neighboring lab who took an interest in Bob's career offered to review the initial drafts of Bob's paper. By the end of the writing process, this researcher had helped Bob outline the paper, suggested a few additional experiments that strengthened the paper's conclusions, and made a number of editing changes in the penultimate draft that enhanced the paper's clarity

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1) Assess faulty practices in the assignment of authorship in a variety of different scenarios. 2) Expose faculty to the ethical guidelines/uniform requirements that their students are learning. 3) Address the problems of reconciling ‘policy’ and ‘practice’ in assignment of authorship. We predicted that there would be a difference between faculty assignment of authorship and assignment of authorship based on the uniform requirements for manuscripts.

Answer Excerpts: Dr. D will give authorship to everyone. But the toxicologist is on the borderline. If this person gave the idea for Powell's work, he should be an author. In this case, Dr. D will ask him whether he wants authorship. If he does want authorship, Dr. D will tell him to participate in this paper, such as editing the paper. Dr. G will give authorship to only the senior researcher. And the technician is on the borderline. If the technician's advice is critical in this paper, this technician may have an authorship. Since the technician just gave advice, he may offer an acknowledgment.

1)Faculty views on assignment of authorship often is at odds with explicit uniform journal policies on authorship criteria. 2)Individual lab policies vary greatly, often giving authorship as a reward, honor, or gesture of appreciation. 3)Doctoral students will inevitably face a conflict between the authorship criteria they learn in ethics courses and the actual authorship practices they encounter in their thesis and postdoc labs.

Participants: Georgetown University biomedical graduate students from two non-consecutive semesters of Survival Skills and Ethics for Scientists; twenty-two Georgetown University faculty members. 3)Discuss authorship case (“B3”) in small mixed break-out groups (students and faculty). 2) Each group reads “Uniform requirements” policy and reevaluates their choices based on the policy. 3) Students interview different faculty members and record opinions as to which, if any, of the individuals on the Powell case deserve authorship.

**Case B3 taken from: Teaching the Responsible Conduct of Research  Prepared for the Association of American Medical Colleges by Stanley G.Korenman, M.D., Associate Dean for Ethics and Medical Scientist Training, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine and Allan C. Shipp, Senior Staff Associate, Association of American Medical Colleges with the oversight and contribution of the AAMC Ad Hoc Committee on Misconduct and Conflict of Interest in Research Subcommittee on Teaching Research Ethics and Support from the NIH.

4)The classroom exercise allowed students to confront the surprisingly large variability in the authorship judgments of faculty and to recognize the potential for conflict between investigators and journal guidelines, and between different investigators. 5)By prompting students and faculty to engage in and open and honest discourse about best-practices and how they are arrived at or applied, we facilitate shared responsibility and understanding between mentors and mentees, a hallmark feature of the collaborative learning processed stressed by the CID.
Study supported by funds from the NIH T32NS041231