What makes a “good scientist?” Nine pitfalls of research misconduct

What makes a “good scientist?” Attached is a 3-page editorial on this topic. One of the coauthors teaches leader­ship skills and works with “troubled departments”. Toxic research environments share a handful of operational flaws and cognitive biases. Researchers and institutional leaders must learn how these flaws and biases infiltrate their research teams, and then they must tailor solutions to prevent them, or keep them in check.

People who enter research generally share several values. When researchers are asked to “list what makes a good scientist,” honesty, openness and accountability come up repeatedly, The US National Academies of Sciences, of Engineering, and of Medicine says that these values give rise to responsibilities that “make the system coherent and make scientific knowledge reliable.” Yet –– every aspect of science –– from the framing of a research question/hypothesis, through to publication of the ultimate manuscript, is susceptible to “influences,” or “issues,” that can counter good intentions.

One of the coauthors has coined the mnemonic TRAG­EDIES (Temptation, Rationalization, Ambition, Group and authority pressure, Entitlement, Deception, Incrementalism, Embarrassment, and Stupid systems) –– to capture the interlocking factors that can lead scientists astray. These nine items are detailed in a Table in the attached editorial. An (annymous) colleague of mine offers a tenth factor: Fear (of the mentor by graduate students or postdoctoral fellows). The attached editorial is worth reading and thinking about…..

Nature 17 May 2o18; 557: pp 297–299 [Commentary]

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