During the THERADNET meeting in Ca’ San Sebastiano, Italy, the ESRs attended a course on scientific ethics with Professor Roberto Andorno at the University of Zurich. This course covered topics including good scientific practice, publication ethics, conflicts between PIs and researchers, and some famous examples of scientific misconduct.
I thought that the course with Professor Andorno was thorough and thought-provoking. Firstly, I thought that this course was a well-needed change from the many animal ethics courses we are all obliged to attend as ESRs. Animal ethics are important, but I think ethics surrounding good scientific practice need to be equally spoken about. Secondly, I thought the format was great; there were a fair amount of slides but also there was enough time to break off into discussion groups and brainstorm case studies. I also thought the real-life examples of scientists who had clearly participated in scientific misconduct were very interesting and probably the best part of the course. These examples gave context to big professors who had fallen from their prestigious positions, and it made us as young ESRs realize that it doesn’t take much dishonesty to have a snowball effect on our careers.
If I had to give one piece of feedback it would be to have included our professors in the discussion of the second part of the discussion. There are many topics that, although were good for brainstorming amongst ESRs, would be impossible for us to answer at this stage of our careers. For example, there was one discussion about if a PI decides to split a big paper (with one main author who did most of the work) into many little papers to unfairly give other people credit as first authors. It would have been interesting to hear the PIs perspectives and to also get them thinking about what would be proper conduct in this case.
Overall, I thought the course was great and it really got us to brainstorm about ethics in science. I look forward to participating in ethics courses in the future!