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We had a client who submitted samples for chromatographic analysis years ago to our research service lab. The client is now an assistant professor in a state university campus. The research is now under editorial review and the editors want some "cosmetic" touch ups to the chromatograms prior to publication.

We provide data processing fees since the processing of her data requires specialized software. We already sent the raw files and the plot numeric data in text format so the cosmetic processing can be done in Excel or Origin or other generic plotting software.

Yet the client still wants our lab to do the processing of the plots which can be done in Excel. Honestly I think the client is just too busy to replot the data with customized annotations themselves for their own publication.

The data processing request includes: 1) Replot the chromatograms so the more prominent peaks are better seen overall 2) Add annotations to the peaks

Honestly this is the first time I encountered such a request where the client requested something to be done by us that could be done by anyone who is publishing academically.

I mean an assistant professor who is about to publish their research should be able to plot data from a text file and do the annotations themselves...or get a subordinate do it for you and not ask the service lab to do it in Excel for their benefit...

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    I don't see how this question is answerable in Q&A format. Any service lab can determine the level of service provided according to budget, staff availability, and overall mandate.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 31, 2019 at 2:53
  • This is me. I am like this. Once I paid 500 dolars for difractograms . Editor wanted 600dpi and some anotation I asked lab that measured my experiment to do it. This is also a way to protect yourself from accusations of tempering manipulating images
    – SSimon
    Aug 31, 2019 at 6:31

2 Answers 2

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  1. Payment:

Don't do it for free. Tell him what it will cost and make sure he gives you a valid charge code or prepay (if external) ahead of time.

To be diplomatic, I would say something like "We can't do this service unless paid and will charge [double whatever you are first thinking]. However as you have the raw data, please feel free to make these edits yourself."

  1. Ethics/responsibility:

If you think the data modification and presentation moves you too much to making an analytical inference (and taking responsibility for it)...or for sure if it is in any way "overegging the pudding", then just decline and tell him to do his own presentations. With some diplomatic comment about your center only providing data files and presentation work being responsibility of researchers. I would also lean this way if you are worried about becoming his "secretary" (having the images sent back and forth for inevitable revisions and further touchups).

  1. People:

He's probably hoping to get you to do extra work for him. There will always be people who push a bit and who try to get away with what they can. Just be calm and firm.

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He bought and paid for his data in the agreed format at the time, contract concluded on both sides.

Re-formatting his data is in his domain now and there are many programs that can be used apart from excel.

If he wants to engage your services, then it is a new contract with rates that you define at the outset for your services. You are, of course, free to say that data analysis or polishing is not part of your remit as you produce the data, not analyse it.

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