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TITLE Case Study:Ethical obligation to publish results?

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PeterBacchetti - 15 Jan 2013 - 13:31

This seems like a very difficult situation, but I think that the ethics are clear. The statement, “The investigators then decided not to proceed with submission of this manuscript since it did not bode well for future grant applications,” appears to indicate a deliberate suppression of evidence in order to favor personal financial and career considerations over scientific progress. The investigators apparently intend to pursue certain lines of research despite having evidence that they are unlikely to be fruitful, knowing that if reviewers were aware of this evidence they would be unlikely to fund such research. If this is really the case, then I would say that the investigators who made this decision are planning to defraud future funders of their research. They might not have fully thought this through and might change their minds with a little more discussion, particularly if limitations and uncertainty can be fairly emphasized in the paper.

If not, then the situation becomes practically very difficult. Working on projects that are unlikely to be fruitful is very undesirable, as is working for people who seem to have questionable priorities, but resentment from colleagues and the risk of unemployment are also very hard to face. I would recommend looking into whistleblower protections (local and federal), which I think could be investigated anonymously or confidentially. I would also look for another position. I believe that there are many investigators who would value this person’s demonstration of scientific integrity and would understand the inability to get a recommendation from the current employer.

BiostatEthicsCaseStudyForm edit

Title_Biostatistics_Ethics_Case_Study Ethical obligation to publish results?
Name_Case_Contributor Shelley Hurwitz
Deidentified_Material Yes
No_Copyright_Restrictions Yes
Case_Presentation This ethical dilemma was contributed by a master's level statistician on a large national interdisciplinary project. Of interest was genomic prediction of outcome. The statistician proposed and completed a sub-study to estimate an upper bound on the potential predictive accuracy of gene expression in this indication. As it turned out, gene expression added essentially no additional predictive accuracy beyond that obtained with a simple clinical score. The investigators then decided not to proceed with submission of this manuscript since it did not bode well for future grant applications. Does the statistician have an ethical responsibility to proceed with submission despite the potential personal and professional conflicts?
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Topic revision: 20 Sep 2013, MaryBanach
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