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On Credit Problems

In her otherwise excellent article on the need to cultivate diplomacy and negotiating skills, Dr. Schwartz made what I believe to be a serious error of omission. This is in Scenario Four, [in which] an impatient junior author submits and publishes a paper without his section chief/coauthor's consent. Dr. Schwartz gives great advice as to how diplomacy might have been used to avoid the situation. What the junior author did was not wrong because it made the section chief furious; it wasn't wrong because it violated the NIH guidelines-it is wrong because it violated one of the central tenets of scientific ethics. This needs to be stated unequivocally and with a much stronger emphasis than was done in the article.

Any person who considers publishing a paper without all the authors' explicit informed consent should disabuse him/herself of the notion immediately. It's not just undiplomatic-it's a very bad career move. In the hypothetical case cited, the senior author (or any other author) would be within his/her rights to demand a public retraction. As we all know, retractions look a lot worse on your CV than do manuscripts "in prep." But more important, it's a serious violation of trust. Although it may not seem so at times, the scientific community survives only because we share a common bond of trust. Individuals who violate that trust (as the junior author did in this case) aren't just being undiplomatic-they're placing themselves outside the community, and they deserve to stay outside the community.

-Michael Lichten, NCI

I agree completely. There are legal, intellectual, and ethical mandates that all authors to a scientific paper (or any other published document) concur wholly in the work that bears their names-and are aware of and agree to any changes suggested before publication. This can't be stated too often or in too many ways. Thanks for providing the opportunity to repeat the message in a more forceful manner.

-Joan P. Schwartz, NINDS

Dr. Joan Schwartz, in her Ethics Forum article in the March-April NIH Catalyst, describes a serious problem that sometimes confronts junior scientists at NIH: What should they do when a senior scientist appropriates their work without giving them credit? As the title of her article indicates, Dr. Schwartz has focused on the clear-cut instances [in which], as the title states, credit is due.

To the junior scientist seeking credit that is due, Dr. Schwartz recommends diplomacy rather than confrontation. This is eminently sensible advice, which we, too, have often given to junior scientists coming to us for help.

Dr. Schwartz's recommendations for a particular type of diplomacy are noteworthy. She urges the junior scientist to make what amounts to a plea for the credit to which he or she is entitled and to avoid, at all costs, the possibility of antagonizing or angering a superior by complaining frankly about the latter's actions. As a practical strategy for improving the junior scientist's chances of success, this, too, appears to be sound advice.

In situations like these [in which] credit has improperly been withheld, we find it deplorable (and presumably so does Dr. Schwartz) that methods other than pleading are more likely to harm than help the junior scientist. What if the plea is rejected? Junior scientists may suffer permanent damage to their careers if they anger a superior with actions that go beyond Dr. Schwartz's extremely cautious guidelines.

This article provides clear advice to junior scientists on how to behave in a difficult situation that may be crucial to their careers. We hope that in a future article Dr. Schwartz, a leading spokes[wo]man at NIH on the subject of ethical behavior, provides an equally clear statement to senior scientists on the injustice of withholding from their junior colleagues the credit that is due.

-Ned Feder and Walter W. Stewart, NIDDK

You've raised the difficult question of what to do if diplomacy doesn't work and credit is still being denied. There are several sources a scientist may tap for advice or intercession: 1) a mentor, woman scientist advisor, or other senior scientist; 2) the NIH Ombudsperson; 3) his or her scientific director; and 4) as a final resort, the DDIR. Actually, we've written guidelines that address actions to be taken in this situation. The document is available in the DDIR office and can also be accessed on the Web at


-Joan P. Schwartz, NINDS
-Michael Gottesman, DDIR

NAS Taps Two from NIH

It's Her Party: Susan Gottesman,
chief, Biochemical Genetics Section,
NCI Laboratory of Molecular Biology,
smiles for herself and colleague
Malcolm Martin, chief, NIAID Labora-
tory of Molecular Microbiology, at a
celebration of their election into the
National Academy of Sciences.

NHGRI Offers Genetics Residency Training

NHGRI is launching a new three year medical genetics residency program, one of only 10 accredited genetics residency programs in the United States. In addition to the Clinical Center, NHGRI training sites include the Children's National Medical Center, Georgetown University Medical Center, and Walter Reed Medical Center.

Trainees will receive broad clinical experience in metabolic diseases, molecular genetics, and cytogenetics, with an emphasis on the role of genetics in cancer, eye diseases, obstetrics, dermatology, and pediatrics.

Max Muenke

The first year is dedicated to seeing patients with rare and common genetic disorders; during the second year, residents select a laboratory to affiliate with and begin designing their own basic or clinical research project. The final year is largely spent conducting research, with minimal clinical responsibilities.

At completion, trainees will qualify for board certification in one or more of four areas of expertise: 1) clinical genetics, 2) cytogenetics, 3) biochemical genetics, or 4) molecular genetics. The program is geared to MDs and MD/PhDs who have completed their residency training, as well as PhDs seeking postdoctoral genetics training.

Although most residents start their training in July, program director Max Muenke emphasizes that there is some flexibility, and some residents may be able to start at other times of the year. The Genetics Residency program has four available spots per year-and one remains to be filled in 1998. The program is administered by an executive committee including representatives from NHGRI, NICHD, NIAMS, NCI, and affiliated training sites.

Applicants should write to Maximilian Muenke, NIH, MSC 1852, Building 10, Room 10-101, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892-1852. E-mail: <mmuenke@nhgri.nih.gov.>

--Judy Folkenberg, Office of Science
Education and Outreach, NHGRI

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