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Questions tagged [ethics]

On making a decision based on morals or common ethical codes instead of etiquette, rules, institutional or government policy, or technical or procedural reasons.

319
votes
12answers
47k views

I don't want to kill any more mice, but my advisor insists that I must in order to get my PhD

When my supervisor pitched the PhD to me, it was all about analyzing "big data". I had BSc/MSc experience in wet-lab biology (mainly culturing cells), however I wanted to branch out into ...
251
votes
18answers
28k views

Moral dilemma in unwittingly being paid to complete a student's work

I am a computer science freelancer who takes on medium-sized projects I can complete in a month or less. I was approached by someone who wanted a set of 12 tutorials at least 500 words each about ...
242
votes
8answers
19k views

A paper I received to review has (independently) duplicated work that we are writing up. How to proceed in light of peer-review confidentiality?

I did some research with some collaborators, and we have been writing an article ("paper A") describing the work. A few days ago I received a request to review an article ("paper B") that covers most ...
206
votes
7answers
21k views

A published paper stole my unpublished results from a science fair

I'm in junior high, and earlier this year, we had a science fair. My science project was mostly experimental pure math, and came in first overall in our grade. Today, I was doing some research on a ...
200
votes
9answers
29k views

Professor creates assignment making students advocate for a bill being presented to Congress. Is this legal?

I attend a public university in Kentucky (USA). My professor has assigned an advocacy assignment that requires students to write three letters of support for a certain House bill that will soon be ...
178
votes
14answers
34k views

May a man attend a workshop entitled “Young women in [domain]”?

The Max Planck Institute for Mathematics at the University of Bonn hosts workshops such as 'Young Women in Harmonic Analysis', 'Young Women in Geometry' and 'Young Women in Mathematical Physics' ...
167
votes
7answers
39k views

Is it acceptable to publish student names with the label 'stupid question', on a publicly-visible website?

While I was browsing faculty websites, I came across this page (new link: http://www.pdmi.ras.ru/~iaroslav/teaching.php?screen_check=done&Width=360&Height=640). Near the bottom there is a ...
152
votes
4answers
29k views

Is Obama's JAMA paper OK?

As some of you may have heard, Barack Obama recently published a paper in JAMA describing the US health care reforms (link). First of all, I am not trying to start a discussion on the validity of the ...
139
votes
11answers
13k views

Is it ethical to submit a paper with the name of a co-author who cannot be contacted?

The paper in question is based on research my collaborator X and I did together some months ago. Our respective contributions to the research were around 2/3 for X and 1/3 for me. In terms of the ...
137
votes
6answers
19k views

My professor is rigging data and plagiarizing. What can I do?

My department head is manipulating data in his research papers and skillfully alters plagiarized text to avoid detection. I found this out while working with him on a journal article. I politely ...
130
votes
11answers
20k views

Reporting a student who may be psychologically disturbed

Yesterday, a colleague from my school's history department brought me a student's final project from her history class. The assigned project was to produce a "creative" project dealing with a ...
130
votes
3answers
13k views

What to do if a referee plagiarises the result after rejecting a paper?

I find myself in an awkward situation. Nearly two years ago I submitted a paper to a reputable mathematics journal. After 15 months it was rejected with the rationale that there had been papers ...
129
votes
15answers
20k views

Is it ethical to profit by having my students buy my textbook?

This question was suggested to me by How can I sell my text book to my students in e-book format? which asked about the practicalities, but attracted many comments about the ethics. So this question ...
126
votes
10answers
28k views

Should a young professor avoid using dating apps?

I am a recent PhD graduate in mathematics, and I will be starting a tenure-track position this fall at a small liberal arts college in a northern US city. My graduate degree was completed at a large ...
122
votes
12answers
34k views

I am an editor for a lousy paper and I found a better algorithm than theirs. Must I share it with them?

I am handling a paper as an associate editor that proposed an algorithm that I find to be weak. In fact, I was able to show that a very simple, brute-force approach actually has a better running time ...
122
votes
4answers
35k views

Rediscovery of calculus in 1994: what should have happened to that paper?

There's a well-known paper in academic circles that features a rediscovery of the trapezoidal rule for numerical integration by a medical researcher: “A Mathematical Model for the Determination of ...
119
votes
17answers
34k views

Should I send professors money for illegally downloading their books? [closed]

I illegally download almost all the books I need for my studies. While I'm more than happy to give a middle finger to the publisher mafia, it does of course mean that the author of the book is not ...
116
votes
17answers
100k views

Is it okay to report classmates cheating on exams?

Is it acceptable or ok to report on students cheating? Many times during a test or an exam, I have seen students in front of me either passing notes, or otherwise collaborating whenever the professor ...
116
votes
13answers
27k views

Is it ethical/acceptable to give a lighter penalty to students who admit to cheating?

I am at the moment dealing with an academic dishonesty incident in a class I'm teaching (a few groups of students submitting identical code, when the class policy forbids getting help from another ...
112
votes
8answers
9k views

How to argue against questionable research practices such as P-hacking and Harking?

I have come into conflict with co-authors when being asked to do things that I consider to be questionable. Once I was told to try every possible specification of a dependent variable (count, ...
111
votes
11answers
27k views

Fellow student asked question from take-home exam on Stack Exchange

In an advanced university course on computer science and problem solving, one of my fellow students asked for a solution to a home exam on one of the Stack Exchange sites. The question he asked is ...
109
votes
11answers
25k views

Why is plagiarism so harshly punished?

I realize why plagiarism is morally wrong and punishable. This is not a question about why it is wrong. This question is about why plagiarism is dealt with so harshly compared to other violations. ...
109
votes
6answers
10k views

Asked again to review a paper, when the authors don't wish to modify it

I have received a manuscript to review for a journal. The interesting thing is, I had already reviewed this article (exact same title, abstract and author list, almost exact same content) for another ...
107
votes
8answers
12k views

What should I do if my advisor is forcing me to vote on a specific candidate in IEEE elections?

The IEEE holds yearly elections for senior positions in its societies. Every member of the IEEE has the right to vote in these elections, including me. My advisor, however, has candidates who, for one ...
104
votes
13answers
19k views

Is it ethical for a professor to get masters students to work on open source modules related to the professor's profit-making company?

My professor of Computer Science has a company (both based in Germany) that promotes an open-source software. Of course the software is free and open-source, but his company generates profits through ...
102
votes
12answers
57k views

Only one student answered an exam question - and I strongly suspect he cheated

Today we (professors + teaching assistants) proctored a midterm exam for a class of about 80 students. There was undoubtedly a "hardest" question on the exam, since nearly the entire classroom of ...
102
votes
23answers
34k views

How can I prevent students from writing answers on an assignment, then claiming I didn't see their answer?

What is a good way to prevent students from writing an answer after you hand back a graded assignment (exam/homework) and claiming that you did not see their answer? It is clear to me that this ...
100
votes
15answers
29k views

I lost my students' quizzes due to a theft, what should I do?

I am a teacher assistant for a big course and I am expected to conduct weekly quizzes. Last week, my bag containing a week's worth of quizzes got stolen. My question is what should I tell my students ...
98
votes
12answers
21k views

One of my student researchers is likely falsifying some results/data. What are the consequences?

Relevant info and background: I'm an engineering Post Doc at an American university. One of my roles is to basically function as a 'project manager' for a couple projects that have a number of ...
98
votes
11answers
20k views

Is it unethical to supply a marked solution to a student who has shown intent to cheat, with the intent of identifying them for punishment?

One of the adjuncts that I work with found that one of their students had posted their assignment on a freelancer website asking for the solution. We joked that he should place a bid and fail them ...
94
votes
9answers
22k views

What to do if I have seen an exam before I have taken it?

Today I saw a photograph of an upcoming exam at my university. At first I thought it was last year's exam; so I took a closer look at it as I think it is okay to see last year's exams even if they ...
91
votes
18answers
223k views

I was caught cheating on an exam, how can I minimize the damage?

I got caught cheating in a two-hour engineering exam consisting of 100 multiple choice questions which was done online through the moodle e-learning software. I feel like my life is almost over. ...
90
votes
15answers
40k views

Should I report a PhD student’s incompetence to their supervisor?

I had a short exchange of mails with a PhD student who wished to ask some questions about a paper of mine, which was troublesome in many respects: The student had a blatant lack of basic knowledge ...
84
votes
6answers
10k views

Should I report an accepted PhD thesis in which the literature review is copied verbatim from sources?

While writing the literature review for my doctoral dissertation, I picked up a few recent dissertations on similar topics from the library to get some pointers on references and style. As I was ...
83
votes
12answers
11k views

Is it ethical to use proprietary (closed-source) software for scientific computation?

I have data from an ordinary scientific experiment. Now, in order to analyse the data, the most convenient way for me is to use some proprietary, closed-source software. Is it ethical to use such ...
83
votes
9answers
18k views

How to let a PhD student know that their research is not as good as they think it is

I am a postdoc and I have been talking to a PhD student about his research, as his interests are closer to mine than to his advisor's. He is generally nice, smart, and hard working. However, I think ...
81
votes
9answers
13k views

Is it acceptable for a professor to ask post-doc student to babysit for free?

Like the title says, I have a friend who is a post-doc and her professor is asking her and another post-doc to baby-sit for him. He does not pay them, he simply expects them to baby-sit for free ...
80
votes
6answers
12k views

Is it ethical for a Professor to disseminate wrong answers online?

I recently took a class where the Professor created multiple online study guides, on popular student sites, which intentionally contained the wrong answers. He did this because his exams were based ...
79
votes
12answers
17k views

Is it acceptable to use non-English references in a computer science paper?

I am currently reviewing an interdisciplinary computer science paper which is heavily based on previous works in logistics and process engineering that have been unfortunately published only in German ...
78
votes
14answers
26k views

Is it appropriate to request that the department hire a female faculty member?

Our department is currently hiring a new faculty member. At the moment, the faculty gender ratio in our department is very skewed, even for our field. I believe that this has a negative impact on the ...
77
votes
13answers
11k views

What to answer an author asking me if I reviewed his/her paper?

Suppose I review someone's paper anonymously, the paper gets accepted, and a year or two later we meet e.g. in a social event and he/she asks me "did you review my paper?". What should I answer? There ...
75
votes
12answers
13k views

Is it ethical to buy noise canceling headphones with research funds?

Noise canceling headphones are quite expensive (up to 300 USD) compared to normal headphones, but can boost productivity by creating a sound isolation in noisy environments. Would it be ethically ...
74
votes
5answers
32k views

Can I legally omit the fact I hold a Ph.D. degree?

I am about to complete a Ph.D. in Hong Kong and would like to study in the United States. I hold a first class B.Eng. degree in Electrical Engineering. I have a CGPA of 3.67 out of 4 in my current PhD ...
74
votes
6answers
18k views

Is it ethical to use a recommendation letter from a deceased professor?

She was a really nice professor and she wrote me a good recommendation letter that resulted in a lot of good results with applications. Recently, this professor died from brain cancer, which was a ...
74
votes
3answers
4k views

A manuscript I refereed gave me an idea for a paper, not sure how to proceed

So, last week I refereed a paper for a journal. The paper in question is a reply to a previous paper by a different author: it points out a serious problem in the original paper and then proposes a ...
73
votes
7answers
8k views

Is it okay for a reviewer to share an under review manuscript with their colleagues?

In a research meeting I mentioned I was doing some peer-review for a conference and disclosed the general topic it was about, without any further details. Immediately my colleagues demanded I disclose ...
73
votes
10answers
11k views

Is it ethical to limit marks based upon past performance?

A professor has a habit of starting oral examinations by asking for or looking up grade averages and grades from other subjects and then taking them heavily into account when evaluating the student in ...
73
votes
6answers
20k views

My first authorship is being turned into co-first authorship, what can I do?

I am currently submitting a paper for Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. I worked on this project for the last four years and was the only one working on this project. I had everything going ...
72
votes
8answers
15k views

I proved a theorem I heard from another researcher. Can I publish my results?

Some time ago I heard a talk in which the speaker mentioned some theorem. I needed this theorem for another paper I wrote. I looked for this theorem in the relevant literature (which I know quite well)...
72
votes
7answers
10k views

Is uncredited use of grad students' unpublished research by professors accepted/common practice in academia?

I'm a master's student, and over the course of my studies I've conducted a few independent studies in which I investigate specific research questions that I formulate on my own. Those independent ...