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Ethical Research

This case study is in ethics in academic research with industrial grants.

It seems that the graduate student assigned to help the professor has realized that in the research she is conducting that is funded by federal grants, but one industrial company funding the project has been where most of the data has come from. Sandra is concerned that the data is being skewed in favor of that company. Sandra talked o the professor about it, but the professor assured her that he did not think that there was a conflict. The more work Sandra did on the project, the more she realized that questions in the surveys were geared toward that company's interests.

This also limited the research that she wanted to conduct on issues that she was interested in pursuing. She felt as if she was working for this company instead of conducting unbiased research that was of her design.

In this scenario,was the professor ethical in assigning this research to the graduate student?

Are their conflicts of interest in data collection or interpretation - would the research be something that Sandra could even publish in her name since it was not really her design?

My thoughts:

Sandra is a graduate student - not an employee for the company. The conflict is not that she is working on industrial research, but that the research is not her "own".

The professor may have entered into an unethical situation in accepting the research project as it is being conducted. That relationship is therefore most likely to be subject to review by third parties.

1. Can or should Sandra turn to those responsible for overseeing the research for help in resolving her own uncertainties?

2. What would be the possible effects on her career if she did so? Should she act, or look the other way? Scientists have a responsibility to report ethical violations, but raising a concern is hard to do.

Solution Preview

Dear Student,
Different from previous solutions I have written for you wherein you receive an APA-format essay as a guide, in this instance I shall be giving my opinion with regards to the problem you have presented above based on the details you've presented and my own experience and knowledge as a social scientist and researcher. I have answered your questions in the narrative below.


My Take on the Case

While I have not read the full Case File on this situation you've presented, I have come up with the following assumptions:

1. Sandra was assigned as a graduate student assistant to work with a Mentor/professor on an important research;

2. The research is Federally Funded;

3. Sandra has come across issues on data source - data is coming from, mostly, a particular company in said industry only;

4. When said issue was raised with Professor, Professor stated he finds no conflict regarding data source;

5. Sandra is afraid that results might be manipulated in favour of that one company only due to the fact that questions used in the survey were for the benefit of the c company.

My Take on your Opinion

I am pleased that you have noticed these issues - one regarding who 'owns' the research and second, the possibility of the professor having entered in an unethical arrangement which would have been detrimental to the goals of the research. I am however unclear as to why you think that the conflict lies in Sandra's position as a graduate student and that the research is not her 'own'. Having been in such a position myself - a research assistant during my graduate student years, I am quite familiar with the ethical rules in place as well as the responsibility that comes being in such a position. To be a research assistant is a good starting point for any scientist and researcher - especially in cases like this - you learn so much working in the field and working for an experienced Scientist who usually becomes one's mentor. Understand though that per research body, per university, there are ...

Solution Summary

The solution provides a review on a particular research ethics issue in relation to decisions and options that must be taken on by those involved for the purpose of maintaining professional, moral and ethical integrity in the field of scientific research (for a full presentation of the case - see original problem below). The solution provides an in-depth analysis of the issues involved and the ethical and moral choices the individual ought to take in such an instance. The solution is in the form of an APA-format essay. A word version is attached for easy printing.