Hello, I am soon to be a PhD student (in the fall) though I have worked in various scientific researches for the past two years. I have published scientific papers, too. However, I have found myself in a situation that is very stressful and disturbing for me, as it goes against all I believe ethical in the science - and I need a really sincere advice.
I have collaborated with a professor on research in ecological engineering for a year and we wrote two papers together (actually, I wrote them and she just signed). The last one wasn't accepted for publishing because it doesn't contain any original statistical data. I was already afraid of this since I know that actually it is a plain paper in review, based on literature.
However, my professor is now asking for me to present this paper at a conference for which the abstract is already accepted. The problem is that she wants me to fake the results of the research! - To describe and invent some facts as if they are the results of our observations in two-time period at some locations (that we would invent, too).
And now I am really disturbed - this goes against everything ethical I learned from my family and in my studies as a future scientist. She though says that it is a common thing to do - and won't accept my suggestion to send this work as it is - a paper in review. Her argument is also that we should invent the facts because the paper is going to be accepted anyway as she knows organizers.
So I find myself in very ugly situation - abstract is accepted and paper is expected but I am afraid that everyone will recognize our fake results and I believe it is not the best way to start my career and build my reputation in scientific circles.
What should I do? I really need help and advice from someone with experience.
My thread is a bit longer but I hope you understand the turmoil in which I find myself. I am very grateful for your attention in advance.
======= Date Modified 12 Mar 2012 22:15:41 =======
Faking the results of a trial to embelish a presentation or in order to have a paper accepted goes against everything the scientific method stands for. Science relies on honesty.
Your fear that you will be found out and that this may have a negative impact on your career may very well be true. I suspect others might also be very concerned with the dishonesty in its-self and the lying to others genuinely interested in the field.
Your situation of being the disempowered junior to a forceful professor pressuring you to do this must be tremendously difficult and I can quite see why you report feeling disturbed. However if you acquiesce to her you may find yourself going down a very dark path, please think very carefully before doing so.
I do not think it is common practice at all, surely if the paper is going to be accepted anyway there is no need for the fictitious data.
I would agree with dafydd - this is not normal. Given your area of research I am even more surprised given all of the efforts to discredit and smear climate change related research, I would have thought anyone working in the area would be very aware of the need to be ultra scrupulous.
If you have these instructions in writing then I would seriously consider sending them to the head of department as this person is endangering the reputation of the department. If not, or you don't want to, I would tell her that you do not wish to be associated with the paper if it is altered in this way and refuse to make up the data anyway. If she goes ahead or you don't trust her, I would also contact the conference organisers and say you need to withdraw your name (you could claim ill-health or something if you don't want to explain the real reason).
Basically, if/when you get found out on this, if you did do it, then if it's you that's made up the data, this professor would be able to put the blame on you and I imagine it will be hard for you to claim otherwise unless she's left a careless documentary trail. That's your career over before it started. However hard, it's better to make an enemy of this woman now than the alternative. And people get caught - the blog retractionwatch is a educational read on that fromt.
I hope to god this isn't your future supervisor - if so find a different one fast. Most scientists are honest.
have you considered this may actually be a test of your integrity ?
anyway even if its not and you go along you are finished from all angles, and this person will know that.
Clearly this person has you pegged psychologically to some degree just to ask that. Either that or they are completely stupid and inexperienced. I have been in a similar situation myself. However i got into a series of arguments with my so called mentor, which escalated until we were almost physically going to fight each other. Gaining Prestige and career pressure can really corrupt some otherwise nice people to do stuff like this.
One day I realized it was not going to get better. I emptied my belongings from the workplace, then walked out the job one day with no notice and never returned. I had plenty of proof collected if they decided to try and pin the blame on me. Make sure you do the same. Get notes, signed documents, emails, or better still make recordings of conversations.
I see no point of doing a PhD if you want to fake a research. Cheating in achieving something is pointless and meaningless and you will never enjoy the fruits. What was your motive of doing a phD, didnt you wish to research and learn something new. Wont that be a fulfilling experience. If you fake it might as well don't do it. Cheating others and yourself is not a way of achieving goals. I am surprised that your professor suggested this to you.
Hello, thank you all for your posts and advices.
I am happy to inform you that I succeeded in my intent and stayed true to my principles (after a lot of difficulties regarding my advisor - but she finally had to relent)!
As for the research, the paper is sent and accepted for the conference for which really is - a review article.
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