Q: I’ve just joined a new lab for my second postdoc. It’s a good lab. I’m happy with my project and I got a paper in Science. My adviser is a good scientist, and he seems like a nice guy. Here’s the problem: Whenever we meet in his office, I catch him trying to look at my data. Not that this matters, but he’s a co-author on the paper.
What should I do?
A: Imagine what life would be like if there were no individuals of the opposite—or preferred—ethical standards. It would be pretty dull, eh? Well, like it or not, the workplace is a part of life.
It’s true that, in principle, we’re all supposed to be honest while working. But the kind of behavior you mention is common in the workplace. Once, a friend told me that he was so distracted by an attractive set of results that he could not concentrate on the fact that he hadn’t ever seen the raw data. Your adviser may not even be aware of what he is doing.
Some definitions of ‘data harassment’ do include inappropriate looking or questioning, especially when it’s repeated to the point where the workplace becomes inhospitable. Has it reached that point? I don’t mean to suggest that repeatedly requesting to see the data is inappropriate workplace behavior—it isn’t—but it is human and up to a point, I think, forgivable. Certainly there are worse things, including citing the IRB as the reason for not inspecting the data. No one should ever use a position of authority to claim co-authorship of a paper when they can’t vouch for the data.
As long as your adviser does not move on to other inquiries, I suggest you put up with it, with good humor if you can. Just make sure that he is listening to you and your ideas, being taken in by the results you are presenting, and taking your science seriously. His attention on your data may be unwelcome, but you need his attention on your science and his reputation to shield you from further scrutiny.
There has been a great deal of community discussion in the last few days about a referee report that was sent to an author at PLOS ONE a few weeks ago. The report contained objectionable language, and the authors were understandably upset.
PLOS ONE has strict policies for how we expect peer review to be performed and we strive to ensure that the process is fair and civil. We have taken a number of steps to remedy the situation:
1. There should be a minimum of one male author on the first submitted draft: this will save time in the review process as the reviewer will not have to request it.
2. The term ‘Lead author’ will be replaced with ‘Alpha Male’.
3. A lady author may be designated as ‘Corresponding author’ if she provides her husband’s email address.
4. Reviewers must henceforth be addressed as ‘Mr Reviewer’.
I want to sincerely apologize for the distress the report caused the authors: we hope our new guidelines will ensure that, in future, lady authors are given a fair and unprejudiced review.
What is a do not replicate order?
A do not replicate order (DNR) order is a kind of advance directive. A DNR is a request not to have your experiment replicated if your hypothesis is accepted, or if it provides support for your theory. Unless given other instructions, researchers will try to replicate any experiment with ‘positive’ results: you can use an advance directive form or tell your journal editor that you don’t want your experiment to be replicated. Your journal editor will put the DNR order in your supplementary documentation when your paper is published. Editors and journals in all states accept DNR orders.
Should I have an advance direcTive?
By creating an advance directive, you are making your preferences about your hypotheses known before you’re faced with a serious failure to replicate or refutation. This will spare your research team the stress of making decisions about the tenability of your hypotheses while you defend them with hyperbole and ad hoc reasoning. Any person 18 years of age or older can prepare an advance directive.
People who are seriously or terminally implausible are more likely to have an advance directive. For example, someone who has terminal implausibility might write that he does not want to be put on a replication program due to ceiling effects. This action can reduce his suffering, increase his peace of mind and increase his control over the literature. However, even if you are plausible, you might want to consider writing an advance directive. An accident or serious failure to replicate can happen suddenly, and if you already have a signed advance directive, your wishes are more likely to be followed.
How can I write an advance directive?
You can write an advance directive in several ways:
- Use a form provided by your editor
- Write your wishes down by yourself
- Call a lawyer
Advance directives and DNRs do not have to be complicated legal documents. They can be short, simple statements about what you want done or not done if you can’t influence or control the replication yourself. Remember, anything you write by yourself or with a computer software package should follow your state laws. You may also want to have what you have written reviewed by your editor or a lawyer to make sure your directives are understood exactly as you intended. When you are satisfied with your directives, the orders should be notarized if possible, and copies should be given to your research team and your editor.
Can I change my advance directive?
If you suddenly remember the scientific method, or even if you just get over yourself, you may change or cancel your advance directive at any time, as long as you are considered of sound mind to do so. Being of sound mind means that you are still able to think rationally and communicate your wishes in a clear manner, which is ironically what people generally expect scientists to do. Again, your changes must be made, signed and notarized according to the laws in your state. Make sure that your editor and any research team members who knew about your directives are also aware that you have changed them.
If you do not have time to put your changes in writing, you can make them known. Tell your editor and any members of the research team present exactly what you want to happen. Usually, wishes that are made in person will be followed in place of the ones made earlier in writing. Be sure your instructions are clearly understood by everyone you have told.
DO NOT REPLICATE ORDER
I have discussed my paper with my editor _______________________.
I request that in the event of my hypotheses being accepted, no person shall attempt to replicate my study.
This order is in effect until it is revoked by me.
Being of sound mind & of a superficially scientific disposition, I voluntarily execute this order, and I understand its full import.
(Type or print declarant’s full name)
(Type or print editor’s full name)
ATTESTATION OF WITNESSES
The individual who has executed this order appears to be of sound mind, and under no duress, fraud, or undue influence, save that of misunderstanding the processes by which scientific knowledge is advanced.
(Type or print witness’s full name)
This form was prepared pursuant to, and in compliance with, the “Harvard do-not-replicate procedure act”.
Downloadable form in Word format here