T H E N I H C A T A L Y S T
M A Y - J U N E 1 9 9 8
On Credit Problems
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
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
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.
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
NAS Taps Two from NIH
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.
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: <firstname.lastname@example.org.>
--Judy Folkenberg, Office of Science
Education and Outreach, NHGRI