Summary: A senior faculty member insisted on uploading a draft of our math paper with incomplete proofs and intermediate results that turned out to be wrong to the arXiv. This was completely deliberate and done in order to claim priority. How serious is this? Does this warrant approaching an ethics committee?
I'm a PhD student in math in my last year. Some time ago, I got involved in a project with a senior faculty member, apparently a top researcher in his field, who is not my advisor. Initially everything seemed going well and I was enthusiastic about the project. As time went on he increasingly started pushing me more and more to finish the paper as he was worried about competition on the same problem, and I got into some trouble with my other work. But it's what happened in the end that really bothered me.
The senior reseacher insisted on uploading a half-finished draft to arXiv in order to establish priority on the results. He specifically told me that it does not matter that some of the intermediate results aren't stated carefully, and most distressingly that we should try to make it look just good enough that nobody will notice that most of the proofs are actually just rough sketches. In practice, this meant leaving out many arguments from our working draft and replacing them with weasel words like "clearly", "obviously" and such, or with long calculations that look relevant but on a closer reading turn out not to be justified adequately. When I raised my concerns about this being unethical he said I'm too naive to get to the top.
Some weeks after uploading our preprint, another preprint proving essentially the same result appeared on the arXiv, so at least my senior collaborator was right about there being competition. As for us, after some months' hard work after uploading the paper, we got most of the arguments fixed. The main results didn't change, but some intermediate results "of independent interest" changed almost beyond recognition. Even though the competing paper looked careful and not at all rushed and our proper arguments were on the arXiv only after theirs, my senior collaborator keeps giving talks where he stresses that we were first.
The episode changed gave me serious concerns about becoming a research mathematician. At least my view of scientific ethics was grossly violated when we posted a preprint with false proofs and uncertain results in order to claim that we were first, and moreover I'm shocked that this seems to be business as usual for someone. Now, I know arXiv isn't a peer-reviewed journal, but I'm ashamed of my part in the process and of having a paper with such a history in my publication list
I'd like to clear my conscience. I'm wondering if I should bring this up with some other senior faculty or even a university ethics committee. Would these events be considered a serious violation of scientific ethics? Would there be some consequences for the professor if I approach an ethics committee? Am I also at risk, should I wait with voicing concerns until my graduation?