This week, were were to look through The Office of Research Integrity’s site to see what cases were currently in dispute, and which had been resolved recently.

The case that I chose to read about was that of Colleen Skau’s(2018). Skau was found to be guilty of engaging in research misconduct. Violations included falsified data, omitting certain data points, being selective about which information to report on, and creating data that was not obtained during experimentation. As a result, Skau’s research has to be observed for up to three years, future places of employment have to acknowledge this during the three year window, and exclude herself from any advising role for three years.

It was interesting to read about the repercussions that can come from faulty and falsified data, especially since this was a concept that we focused heavily on in my Quantitative Research Methods course this past fall. While it was something I was aware of occurring, it was sad to reach of a case that had happened within the past few years. While I don’t know Skau personally, it still saddened me to see that a PhD candidate was willing to falsify data in order to make their study look more ‘legitimate’.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking in my classes about how in the research community there is an emphasis on quantity of work rather than quality of work. I’m curious to see if that was the case here or not. Did Skau feel pressured to produce papers and research at a faster rate, and consequently had integrity violations? We might not know. But it is reassuring to know that organizations such as ORI exist to maintain integrity in academia.

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One Thought to “Ethics”

  1. I also tend to find these incidents to be much more saddening when it’s a student or postdoc rather than an established professor. Maybe it’s just because I’m also a student and relate a lot more heavily to the pressures of grad school! But they also always remind me of all of my friends who haven’t been able to graduate on time due to research results that couldn’t count towards a thesis or dissertation, and how defeating it can be to face down paying an extra semester out of pocket since funding has run out, or else tuck your tail and leave school without a degree in hand. But who’s to know what the actual motivations were?

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