Hot Topics: Research Ethics

Blog Posts (83)

August 18, 2017

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: August 18, 2017

Politics Neil Gorsuch Speech at Trump Hotel Raises Ethical Questions “Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, is scheduled to address a conservative group at the Trump International Hotel in Washington next month, less than two weeks before the court is set to hear arguments on Mr. Trump’s travel ban.” Trump’s Washington DC hotel … More Ethics & Society Newsfeed: August 18, 2017
August 4, 2017

The Age of Designed Babies Arrives

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

In the film Gattaca, a couple desiring to have a child visits their neighborhood geneticist:

Geneticist: You have specified hazel eyes, dark hair and fair skin.

July 26, 2017

Authorship and Pets

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors is an influential group that, as expected, takes publication and authorship very seriously.  They have issued the most generally accepted definition of the criteria for authorship of scientific publications. They list these criteria very clearly and unambiguously on their website. These criteria are:

“The ICMJE recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria:

  -Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND

  -Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AN

  -Final approval of the version to be published; AND

  -Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. “

They go on to say “All those designated as authors should meet all four criteria for authorship, and all who meet the four criteria should be identified as authors.” There does not seem to leave much doubt as to their meaning. The practise of guest authorship, including authors with non-substantive contributions by virtue of their position was once common but is now considered inappropriate. However, no simple set of guidelines can address all possible circumstances. Which raises the point I am addressing in this blog: What about pets?

An important paper on atomic behaviour published in Physical Reviews by Jack Hetherington and F.D.C. Willard is the object of this question.

F.D.C. Willard was Jack Hetherington’s Siamese cat Chester. The name represents Felix domesticus Chester Willard.  Willard was Chester’s father also obviously a cat. Chester eventually published a sole author paper, an impressive accomplishment indeed for a cat. Hethrington’s motivation for this offense was the realization that he had used plural terms such as “we” and “our” throughout the manuscript. It was easier to add an author than to edit the entire manuscript.

The pertinent question then is whether F.D.C. Willard met the criteria for authorship. Without going into a lengthy analysis of the likelihood that the criteria were met I am merely going to suggest that I believe it was highly unlikely. In the terminology of research ethics today this would be considered fabrication and falsification, both criteria for research misconduct. So did Jack Hetherington commit research misconduct? The answer, literally, is yes. However, I am going to suggest that he should probably be pardoned for his offense. The reason for this is clear. He was merely making a joke. Science for all its clear value is often a bit humourless. Pranks like this are remembered forty years later in a way that very few actual scientific papers are remembered. After all, F.D.C. Willard has a Wikipedia entry and Jack Hetherington does not. I still do have one concern to address. It is very hard to believe that a cat could actually be a co-author. This would be much more credible if Professor Hetherington had cited his dog.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.  

July 19, 2017

Response to: “Rethinking the Belmont Report? Yes!”

by Phoebe Friesen, Lisa Kearns, Barbara Redman, and Arthur L. Caplan

Emily Caldes and Jennifer McCormick make several excellent points in their blog post “Rethinking the Belmont Report?…

July 7, 2017

The 2017 Common Rule and the Clinical Ethics of Prolixity

Some bioethicists link the beginnings of our field to the Nazi Medical experiments and the Nuremberg Trial (Annas). Whether this is the beginning of bioethics is debatable, but without a doubt, research ethics has been a central topic in the field.

July 6, 2017

Rethinking the Belmont Report?

Some bioethicists link the beginnings of our field to the Nazi Medical experiments and the Nuremberg Trial (Annas). Whether this is the beginning of bioethics is debatable, but without a doubt, research ethics has been a central topic in the field.

July 5, 2017

The Belmont Report: First Word or Last Word on the Foundations of Research Ethics?

Some bioethicists link the beginnings of our field to the Nazi Medical experiments and the Nuremberg Trial (Annas). Whether this is the beginning of bioethics is debatable, but without a doubt, research ethics has been a central topic in the field.

July 3, 2017

Tune Ups to Belmont & Common Rule Need to Consider Community-Engaged Research

Some bioethicists link the beginnings of our field to the Nazi Medical experiments and the Nuremberg Trial (Annas). Whether this is the beginning of bioethics is debatable, but without a doubt, research ethics has been a central topic in the field.

June 30, 2017

Rethinking the Belmont Report? Yes!

Some bioethicists link the beginnings of our field to the Nazi Medical experiments and the Nuremberg Trial (Annas). Whether this is the beginning of bioethics is debatable, but without a doubt, research ethics has been a central topic in the field.

May 23, 2017

Dear Mr. President: It’s Time for Your Bioethics Commission

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Last week, seven Democratic members of the U.S. House Representatives sent a letter to the White House asking President Trump to appoint a director to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), position that normally serves as the presidential science advisor.…

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Published Articles (201)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 7 - Jul 2017

The Final Rule: When the Rubber Meets the Road P. Pearl O'Rourke

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 7 - Jul 2017

Examining Provisions Related to Consent in the Revised Common Rule Jeremy Sugarman

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 7 - Jul 2017

Rethinking the Belmont Report? Phoebe Friesen, Lisa Kearns, Barbara Redman & Arthur L. Caplan

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 7 - Jul 2017

A Proposed Process for Reliably Updating the Common Rule Benjamin E. Berkman, David Wendler, Haley K. Sullivan & Christine Grady

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 7 - Jul 2017

At Last! Aye, and There's the Rub Alexander M. Capron

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 7 - Jul 2017

Modernizing Research Regulations Is Not Enough: It's Time to Think Outside the Regulatory Box Suzanne M. Rivera, Kyle B. Brothers, R. Jean Cadigan, Heather L. Harrell, Mark A. Rothstein, Richard R. Sharp & Aaron J. Goldenberg

AJOB Primary Research: Volume 8 Issue 2 - Apr 2017

Primary care physicians' views about gatekeeping in clinical research recruitment: A qualitative study Marilys Guillemin, Rosalind McDougall, Dominique Martin, Nina Hallowell, Alison Brookes & Lynn Gillam

AJOB Primary Research: Volume 8 Issue 2 - Apr 2017

Healthy individuals' perspectives on clinical research protocols and influences on enrollment decisions Laura Weiss Roberts & Jane Paik Kim

AJOB Primary Research: Volume 8 Issue 2 - Apr 2017

Qualitative study of participants' perceptions and preferences regarding research dissemination Rachel S. Purvis, Traci H. Abraham, Christopher R. Long, M. Kathryn Stewart, T. Scott Warmack & Pearl Anna McElfish

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 3 - Mar 2017

Using Social Media as a Research Recruitment Tool: Ethical Issues and Recommendations Luke Gelinas, Robin Pierce, Sabune Winkler, I. Glenn Cohen, Holly Fernandez Lynch & Barbara E. Bierer

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News (406)

August 17, 2017 9:00 am

Artificial intelligence identifies plant species for science (Nature)

Computer algorithms trained on the images of thousands of preserved plants have learned to automatically identify species that have been pressed, dried and mounted on herbarium sheets, researchers report.

August 14, 2017 9:00 am

Americans are becoming more open to human genome editing, survey finds, but concerns remain (Science)

CRISPR, the powerful genome-editing tool, does a molecular tango to cut and modify DNA that is highly nuanced. The same subtlety applies to the public’s views on how best to use genome editing in humans, a new survey of adults in the United States shows.

July 28, 2017 9:00 am

First U.S. team to gene-edit human embryos revealed (Science)

Since Chinese researchers announced the first gene editing of a human embryo 2 years ago, many expected that similar work in the United States was inevitable. Last night, the MIT Technology Review broke the news that such experiments have happened. The research, led by embryologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, also reportedly sidestepped problems of incomplete and off-target editing that plagued previous attempts, though details could not be confirmed since the work is not yet published and Mitalipov has so far declined to comment.

July 4, 2017 9:00 am

Single-cell sequencing made simple (Nature)

Single-cell biology is a hot topic these days. And at the cutting edge of the field is single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). Conventional ‘bulk’ methods of RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) process hundreds of thousands of cells at a time and average out the differences. But no two cells are exactly alike, and scRNA-seq can reveal the subtle changes that make each one unique. It can even reveal entirely new cell types.

June 30, 2017 9:00 am

Stem cell approach for cataracts challenged (Science)

A team of ophthalmologists and stem cell scientists is advancing a controversial new approach to treating cataracts, the clumping of lens proteins that blurs the vision of about one in six Americans over age 40, plus thousands of infants born every year. Instead of replacing the cloudy lens with a plastic replacement, this technique relies on the capsule’s resident stem cell to regrow an entire new lens.

June 16, 2017 9:00 am

Biologists debate how to license preprints (Nature)

Biology’s zeal for preprints — papers posted online before peer review — is opening up a thorny legal debate: should scientists license their manuscripts on open-access terms? Researchers have now shared more than 11,000 papers at the popular bioRxiv preprints site. But where some researchers allow their bioRxiv manuscripts to be freely redistributed and reused, others have chosen to lock them down with restrictive terms.

May 29, 2017 9:00 am

House science panel joins Trump in questioning research overhead payments (Science)

A hearing on how the U.S. government defrays the cost of doing federally funded research on college campuses might put most people to sleep. But when budgets are tight, the billions of dollars being spent each year on so-called overhead become an irresistible target for lawmakers. This past Wednesday, the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives weighed in on the subject, one that is at the core of the U.S. research enterprise but also exceedingly complicated. The hearing gave Republicans an opportunity to voice support for lowering overhead payments, which cover things like electricity, lab maintenance, regulatory compliance, and administration.

May 25, 2017 9:00 am

Fixing the tomato: CRISPR edits correct plant-breeding snafu (Nature)

From their giant fruits to compact plant size, today’s tomatoes have been sculpted by thousands of years of breeding. But mutations linked to prized traits — including one that made them easier to harvest — yield an undesirable plant when combined, geneticists have foundIt is a rare example of a gene harnessed during domestication that later hampered crop improvement efforts, says geneticist Zachary Lippman of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. After identifying the mutations, he and his colleagues used CRISPR gene editing to engineer more productive plants — a strategy that plant breeders are eager to adopt.

May 12, 2017 9:00 am

Integrity starts with the health of research groups (Nature)

Last month, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report called Fostering Integrity in Research. Later this month, the 5th World Conference on Research Integrity will be held in Amsterdam. Over the years, universities have followed some funders’ mandates to improve the prevention and investigation of misconduct. Many discussions have been held about unreliable research. None of these initiatives pays sufficient attention to a specific issue: the research health of research groups and the people who lead them. This includes technical robustness of lab practices, assurance of ethical integrity and the psychological health and well-being of group members.

May 3, 2017 9:00 am

Psychedelic compound in ecstasy moves closer to approval to treat PTSD (Nature)

Psychologists have occasionally given people psychedelic drugs such as LSD or magic mushrooms to induce altered states, in an attempt to treat mental illness. Today, many of those drugs are illegal, but if clinical trials testing their efficacy yield positive results, a handful could become prescription medicines in the next decade. The furthest along in this process is MDMA — a drug sold illegally as ecstasy or Molly — which is showing promise in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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