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.

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334 votes
12 answers
55k 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 ...
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266 votes
19 answers
34k 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 ...
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259 votes
8 answers
23k 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 ...
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232 votes
6 answers
27k 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A published paper stole my unpublished results from a science fair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 ...
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214 votes
9 answers
34k 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 ...
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188 votes
15 answers
36k 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' ...
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173 votes
11 answers
28k views

My research paper filed as a patent in China by my Chinese supervisor without me as inventor

I completed my PhD 3 years ago from a university in the UK. Today I was looking for some papers in google scholar. I found a patent in China. The patent was written in Chinese however, all diagrams/...
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171 votes
7 answers
43k 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 ...
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  • 1,245
166 votes
4 answers
73k 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 ...
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  • 71.2k
155 votes
14 answers
25k views

Teaching a class likely meant to inflate the GPA of student athletes

Premise My department recently finalized the faculty teaching assignments for the Fall 2019 semester (starts at the end of August 2019). As these assignments were being discussed a few weeks ago, my ...
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  • 18.4k
152 votes
4 answers
31k 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 ...
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148 votes
5 answers
16k 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 ...
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  • 1,583
147 votes
6 answers
23k views

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

I am a graduate student. 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 ...
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  • 1,343
146 votes
11 answers
16k 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 ...
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133 votes
16 answers
25k 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 ...
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132 votes
11 answers
22k 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 ...
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130 votes
12 answers
36k 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 ...
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128 votes
10 answers
36k 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 ...
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127 votes
13 answers
43k 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 ...
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  • 107k
125 votes
17 answers
146k 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 ...
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  • 1,506
125 votes
7 answers
14k 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 ...
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  • 71.2k
123 votes
18 answers
333k 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. ...
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121 votes
17 answers
36k 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 ...
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  • 1,157
118 votes
8 answers
10k 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, ...
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  • 2,687
115 votes
11 answers
31k 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 ...
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112 votes
14 answers
69k 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 ...
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  • 1,059
109 votes
11 answers
29k 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. ...
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  • 1,079
108 votes
8 answers
13k 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 ...
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107 votes
13 answers
22k 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 ...
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106 votes
11 answers
14k views

Ethical concerns regarding the review of a paper on autonomous armed drones

I would like your suggestion on a delicate matter involving a paper that I am reviewing. I will avoid giving too many details to preserve anonymity. In this article the authors describe an algorithm ...
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105 votes
9 answers
38k 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 ...
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103 votes
15 answers
31k 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 ...
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103 votes
11 answers
21k 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 ...
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103 votes
10 answers
11k views

How can I address a student systematically boosting their grades by filing frivolous complaints?

I was recently accused of unfair grading by a student. The accusation is meritless, and it didn't take long to prove that I didn't do anything wrong. No damage, but a lot of time wasted. Later, I ...
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100 votes
12 answers
28k 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 ...
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95 votes
15 answers
44k 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 ...
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  • 51.3k
90 votes
17 answers
17k views

Is it acceptable for a professor to tell male students to not think that they are smarter than female students?

The situation occurred in the first lecture of an undergraduate course in a STEM field at an university. The professor said that there are less than 20% female students in the class, while the usual ...
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  • 663
90 votes
7 answers
15k 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 ...
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87 votes
8 answers
14k views

Citing paywalled articles accessed via illegal web sharing

There are a few sites which offer paid articles for free. It’s something unethical, especially for those who upload to that site, but for me, it’s good for expanding knowledge. As a readers, can we ...
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87 votes
8 answers
56k 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 ...
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86 votes
13 answers
14k 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 ...
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85 votes
9 answers
16k views

First author doesn't want a co-author to read the whole paper

First author is a PhD student, as am I. All of the other co-authors are our supervisors. The first author doesn't want me to read the paper, because we are both PhD students and I might plagiarize (?!)...
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85 votes
12 answers
13k 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 ...
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85 votes
4 answers
16k views

Am I being exploited by my supervisor?

It has been 4.5 years since I joined as a PhD student. My supervisor asks me to draft almost all of his important emails. He will begin by briefing me the issue, and ask me to draft the email in a ...
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  • 1,344
85 votes
9 answers
19k 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 ...
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  • 721
84 votes
10 answers
31k views

Is it ethical to tell my teaching assistant that I like him?

I, a twenty-year-old female, have come to admire the graduate teaching assistant for my summer course quite strongly. I'm extremely interested in what he has to say, I always pay attention, never use ...
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  • 901
83 votes
16 answers
18k views

Is it valid to modify a student's exam grade if you feel they did not earn it?

I am a graduate student who teaches their own class. I have a supervisor who I report to for everything, including final grades. We have a meeting every semester at the end to review our final grades ...
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82 votes
9 answers
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 ...
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  • 954
80 votes
12 answers
19k 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 ...
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80 votes
6 answers
14k 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 ...
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