Thursday, October 29, 2015

Training PhD students about responsible conduct of research: Whose responsibility is it?

It is needless to emphasize the importance of maintaining ethical standards while conducting research. However, for engaging in ethical research practices, one needs to learn about the ethical standards. Most of the researchers start learning about conducting research during their PhDs. This means that they should start learning about ethical and responsible conduct of research as PhD students. But the bigger question remains: who teaches PhD students about responsible conduct of research? Is it the faculty who serve as mentors or advisors or supervisors to the student, or is it the university or the institution?

Titus and Ballou [1] conducted a quantitative study to figure out how faculty (mentors or advisors or supervisors) work with PhD students to educate them about research standards, and who (the institution or the faculty) they think is responsible for teaching PhD students about responsible conduct of research. For this study, Titus and Ballou selected 10000 R01 researchers who had NIH grants during 2005 and 2006, and had the primary responsibility of overseeing a doctoral student in the last five years. They surveyed the selected researchers using a web-administered questionnaire between October 2008 and March 2009 to answer their research questions.

In their study, Titus and Ballou found that more than half of the faculty did not 1) teach the doctoral students how to write grant proposals, 2) co-author a research paper with the student being the first author, 3) prepare an IRB or IUCAC protocol with students, and 4) provide data management guidelines to students. 30% of the faculty reported that either they did not have any guideline from the institution on their responsibilities for working with PhD students or they could not remember if any guideline was provided. More than 70% of the faculty believed it was their responsibility to 1) set standards for data collection, 2) provide training for data management, 3) provide policy on authorship, and 4) provide financial support to students. However, more than half of them believed that it was institute’s responsibility to 1) provide training in responsible research behavior, 2) provide training about IRB or IACUC regulations, 3) provide training in identifying research misconduct, and 4) managing cases of research misconduct. Less than 30% faculty reported that they had been trained to advise or mentor doctoral students and develop research skills in students.

The findings of the above study provide important implications for research institutions to train the faculty to work with doctoral students. At the same time, there should be a clear delineation of responsibility between faculty and institution for developing ethical and responsible research behavior in PhD students. Training PhD students about responsible conduct of research is an important part of their development as PhD students and both institution and faculty should hold hands to achieve this goal.

[1] Titus, S. L., & Ballou, J. M. (2013). Ensuring PhD Development of Responsible Conduct of Research Behaviors: Who’s Responsible? Science and Engineering Ethics, 20(1), 221–235.

No comments:

Post a Comment