Ethical Issue Du Jour
I am the owner of a dissertation listserv at the University of Texas at Austin that was created in 1998 and now has almost 700 UT student subscribers. Occasionally, there is a post to the list which raises troublesome issues involving research, ethics and intellectual property. Below is a message received on May 13, 2004--one demanding thoughtful discussion.
In view of the seriousness and complexity of the issues raised by this doctoral candidate, I took the liberty of sharing his message with several of UT's best scholars in the STEM disciplines, as well as a couple of colleagues outside of UT who have worked with and for major granting agencies like NSF and NIH--people who care deeply about issues in graduate education. I did, of course, expunge the student's name and graduate program.
Included below is the student's original message, followed by a few of the responses received from faculty and academic leaders at UT and elsewhere. When other pertinent comments are sent to me, I will post them. As I cautioned subscribers to the list, the advice offered by different scholars may not necessarily be the same, documenting how cases like these are problematic and call for careful thought and awareness of consequences prior to action. Our goal is to use this case as an opportunity to teach and learn.
If you have thoughts that you wish shared with the list, please let me know.
Rick Cherwitz, email@example.com
ORIGINAL POST TO THE DISSLIST (MAY 13, 2004)
I hope I that this situation is a little unique, but I am posting about it to see what anyone else might think.
I was doing a literature scan today to update my literature survey with anything new that might have happened since I thought I was done with that part of my dissertation a few months ago. I stumbled across a paper that I had not previously found, directly on topic for one of my dissertation chapters. Amazingly, I knew 3 of 4 authors, 2 of which have exceptional academic research records in the field (I'll call them A and B) and both of which had been reviewers on a proposal I had submitted for funding 3 years before. The third (called C) is a working colleague of author B, and a former grad student of author A. The basic concept of the paper was remarkably similar to my old proposal (which BTW was denied funding although reviewer A said "It is a great idea, but I think this issue may be challenging to overcome, and while you show great promise in this field, you have not yet done any great work in this field" - therefore "no funding for you!" - say it like the soup Nazi - its funnier that way...), so I read the paper.
The paper was derived from a MS thesis by the fourth author (called D), which, with a little more work (isn't the web great), turns out to be an ex-student of author A, who had reviewed my proposal, and is now a colleague of B and C. While not identical to my proposal, the core elements of the thesis are closely related to my proposal, so much so in fact that they were the natural outgrowth of an expanded literature search that had formed the basis of the next version of the proposal (which was ultimately funded) and my PhD proposal. A little more research (reading the MS thesis) led to the discovery that D had begun their research for their advisor, author A, less than 10 months after my proposal had been reviewed by author A, and that Authors B and C had supported said research with funding from their institution. Additional funding to Author A had been received from NSF, and a quick check there showed no prior grants from NSF in this direction from Author A.
In other words, if my proposal was Kevin Bacon, none of these individuals if more than 2 degrees-of-separation from Kevin Bacon.
I can't prove anything....its just "curious." This discovery doesn't reduce my dissertation to nothing (in fact they proved I was right in my proposal that my theory was correct, worked well, and the "challenge" could be easily overcome), and I feel that my current work remains ahead of what they have published. I just feel a bit like my thunder was stolen. Unfortunately, the stature of these individuals makes anything I might say career suicide...
Anyone else have a similar experience? Anyone have suggestions? I really hope that this is an isolated occurrence. I'd really hate to be in academia if this type of behavior is commonplace.
Thanks for your thoughts,
FIRST RESPONSE (May 13, 2004)
Wow!!! I have not run into anything like this. Having said that, I guess I am not totally surprised to find that something like this could happen--assuming the obvious conclusion from the story. I do know of some people in my field that I would never discuss a research idea with because it would likely be stolen. The assumed behavior of Author A is totally unethical, and presumably Author B was in on the deal as well. It seems possible that C and D were completely innocent.
A curious part of the story, but really of no consequence, is how the writer knows who reviewed the proposal in the first place. Normally, one would not know who reviewed a proposal, although I suppose there are exceptions to that. Before doing anything, I think the student needs to be really sure that he or she knows that Authors A and B (or at least one of them) was a reviewer of the original proposal.
I am certainly confused about what to suggest, but I have a few ideas. The one thing is simply to do nothing at this stage. Once the writer is out and established him or herself, they could begin to get a feel whether others in the field think that Authors A & B are known to steal ideas, and perhaps deal with it informally through professional contacts. This does not seem to me to be a very satisfying choice, although it certainly is the easiest.
A second idea is to see if the University lawyers are interested in pursuing something about this. UT is extraordinarily good at protecting the intellectual property of faculty, and I would hope and assume that would extend to PhD students. I am not sure how to get that ball rolling, but perhaps starting with people at the Office of Sponsored Projects would work. Certainly if the dissertation advisor's name was also associated with the original proposal, OSP would probably help, since they would have had to process the proposal in the first place.
A third idea, and perhaps one that is less risky than it might first appear, is to write to the NSF director in charge of the funding for Author A, and tell the story just like it is now--without identifying the individual involved--and just ask if he/she or higher ups in NSF would like more detail. If the answer to that query is positive, the detail could include a copy of the original proposal, hopefully dated, that could be compared (by NSF folks) with the proposal that Author A submitted to NSF. If there is any proof that Author A was the reviewer of the original proposal, that should be submitted as well, although I realize that such proof might be hard to come by. (I also realize the funding from NSF came after funding by Author B, so the proposals might look quite different after doing some work under the sponsorship of Author B. Nevertheless, it seems worth a shot.) I think the only request would be that Author A not get additional funding from NSF for any proposal, ever.
The second and third ideas could be linked; that is, the University could be the ones writing to NSF, so that the student puts some distance between him/herself and the process. Some benefits of this approach are the relative anonymity (which reduces the “academic suicide” worries that were expressed) and it being less work and worry for the student (and thereby allowing the student to do the really important thing of finishing the dissertation).
In any case, I don't think the writer should just let this drop. The apparent unethical behavior of Authors A and B, if it can be proven to be true, needs to be stopped. In addition to the suggestions above, another approach is to begin by talking to his/her PhD committee to see if they have ideas.
Professor, Civil Engineering
RESPONSE #2 (May 14, 2003)
James J. Duderstadt (Engineering)
Former President, University of Michigan
An interesting...and disturbing case. After 40 years "in the business", I am resigned to the fact that such things occasionally happen, whether due to intent or simply oversight (and convenient lapses of memory as to the original source of ideas).
My primary concern at this stage would be the welfare of the student. I have seen too many cases in which the early stages of a young scientist's career was effectively destroyed by the time and effort devoted to such cases. While it is always tempting to right the wrongs (or at least prove they occurred), the effort to do so is very considerable, particularly when one is looking up rather than down.
If the individual were my student, I would suggest that if no harm to the dissertation has been done, just to get on with developing a scholarly career while keeping a watchful eye out that such events do not occur or go unchallenged in the future when he or she is better established... and perhaps has a broader perspective.
Sorry for a more pragmatic approach, but going on crusades early in one's career usually does not pay off...
THIRD RESPONSE (May 14, 2004)
Professor, Cell Biology
Graduate Dean, Emory University
I have observed things like this in science. A colleague and collaborator of mine who was working in an area that was relatively new, and therefore had a rather small number of labs internationally pursuing the same general approaches became convinced that the review of his grant applications and manuscripts were being unfairly reviewed and rejected by competitors. However, as one of your respondents indicated, suspicions that unethical actions have occurred are extremely difficult to prove. My colleague eventually went to law school, left academia, and is now practicing intellectual property law.
What to do with the present situation? It's a conundrum - damned if you do and likewise if you don't. I like the "contact the NSF" approach that Desmond suggests, but as the second respondent points out, this tactic could eventually be quite detrimental to the student's career. These types of things can never be done totally anonymously. I guess I would side with Jim's recommendation and advise the student to complete his/her dissertation and to go on to pursue whatever career path he/she chooses. If indeed individuals A and B have engaged in what appears to be unethical behavior, they are likely to repeat their sins, and will hopefully some day trip themselves up. This is the course of action that would have the lowest probability of being detrimental to the student.
However, if there were some way to alert NIH and NSF (e.g. by the UT Counsel's office as Desmond suggests) that there was a suspicion of malfeasance on the part of A and B without involving the student or the specifics of the issue in question in any way, it could have the effect of increasing the vigilance on the part of program officers who were responsible for managing future applications from A and B. It would be more likely for A and/or B to trip themselves up if others were looking for the stumbling blocks. There is always a caveat though. Before taking that approach, one would have to consider if it itself was ethical or even legal. Although it seems unlikely, what if all of this is a coincidence and A and B came up with their (parallel) approach totally independently? As Desmond points out, how can the student be sure that A was the reviewer of his original proposal? This is perhaps another good reason to err on the side of caution on behalf of the student.
FOURTH RESPONSE (May 14, 2004)
Bruce Palka (Former NSF Program Officer)
I know about cases like this from my stint as a Program Officer at NSF. Unethical behavior of this blatant character is thankfully quite rare, but not as rare as one might hope. If the original proposal from which the ideas were filched was a proposal submitted to NSF, then it is clear what the victim of the intellectual theft should do: inform the cognizant authority at NSF. If that person finds any substance to the accusation, it will trigger an investigation by the Inspector General's Office at NSF. The consequences for the perpetrator could be severe -- and I mean criminal consequences, not just loss of funding. Other federal funding agencies will have similar procedures for dealing with situations of this kind. If the original funding agency was not a federal agency, I don't know quite what to recommend. Desmond's suggestions seem as good as any.
FIFTH RESPONSE (May 14, 2004)
Research Associate, Integrative Biology
I have read the various postings on the thorny issues raised by the prospect of intellectual property theft. While I think it is important to review the different facets of the case, I am somewhat disturbed that more respondents have not taken an assertive stance. I have seen little discussion of the ethics of the situation. There is such a thing as right and wrong. Everything is not relative. Granted, no one wants to see his/her budding career ruined, but I don't believe turning the other cheek does anyone a favor in the long run. And I speak from some experience because long ago, under another set of circumstances, I had a senior professor steal my undergraduate honor's thesis research. Aside from the fact it devastated me, I came to learn that the professor in question had a reputation for such antics, and apparently no one had ever called him on it. So, it was widely known that he was unethical and that his research cut corners, and probably much of what he published was b.s. Yet, best as I could tell, everyone put it in the category of "boys will be boys." So, I would be concerned that if in fact A and B are guilty as suspected, they will continue their ways, hurting others in the future, and they won't be
called on it because, in the end, most of us lack the courage to stand up for our convictions.
SIXTH RESPONSE (May 14, 2004)
Ph.D. Student, English
While I agree that this sort of thing continues to happen in part because the people it happens to don't speak up (and in part because there's no mechanism that makes it easier for people to speak up), I also think the student does need to be pragmatic about whether he wants to be the one who does speak up, at this stage of his career. The emotional and physical costs of speaking up can be draining - a friend of mine faced a somewhat similar situation, as a graduate without a permanent position, and initially spoke up, and afterwards decided to back down primarily because worry and stress from the situation was negatively affecting her mental and physical health. (She was also concerned about the possible professional consequences, but that was secondary to the health issues.) Granted, she also did not have the institutional support that may be possible here. Still, it's important to keep in mind that it's not just about ethical violations; it's about power and power imbalances that allow these ethical violations to take place in the first place, which is as much a systemic problem for all of us as it is a personal problem for the one student most directly affected by this particular violation. (Especially in situations as described in Wendy's post, where the professor had a "reputation for such antics," I find it distressing that someone else - a fellow professor? a college administrator? - didn't pursue the issue, rather than leaving it up to the largely powerless students the professor was stealing from. Putting the responsibility for response squarely with the students seems to be an abdication of institutional responsibility. Without the students, sure, you can't make a case; but with a more proactive institutional system, students might not be as easily discouraged from speaking up.)
I don't know how to go about creating procedures that would even out some of the power imbalances that allow such ethical violations to go largely unchallenged (because clearly, if A and B are guilty, there are some serious violations of ethics here) - I wish I did. But the question is also whether it is the student's responsibility to be the one leveling that charge at A and B, given the possible personal and professional consequences to him. Yes, the more people who speak up, the less this sort of thing will happen. And certainly, those people who can speak up should speak up. And for those of us not in this position - especially those people with tenure or other kinds of institutional power - it is incumbent upon us to consider how we might make speaking up easier for those who are affected by ethical violations. However, not everyone can, for a range of reasons (I for one would not have counseled my friend to pursue the moral victory when her health was at stake), and only the student is going to be able to decide, given the possible consequences of the different responses, which one is right in his situation.
SEVENTH RESPONSE (May 15, 2004)
Adron Harris (UT)
M. June and J. Virgil Waggoner Professor
Director, Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research
In my experience, this level of unethical behavior by grant (or manuscript) reviewers is unusual - I have never encountered this sort of situation in my 30 years in this business. Most scientists have more good ideas than they can pursue and don't need to steal from others. I will pass on to John Mihic and Rueben Gonzales as they have lots of experience in grant review and Rueben teaches our ethics course - maybe he wants to use this in class.
My guess is that this will become more prevalent as commercialization and patents become more important - there are many instances of patent disputes over who stole which patent idea from whom. I just returned from a meeting of an NIH-funded research consortium and was a bit shocked when one of our 'collaborators' required us to sign a non-disclosure agreement before he would give his presentation! That was the first, and I am sure not the last, time that I encountered that level of concern for IP.
These are important issues for our students and faculty.
EIGHTH RESPONSE (May 17,2004)
Harry Swinney, Sid Richardson Foundation Regents Chair, Department of Physics
That sounds like blatant dishonesty. Perhaps such instances are increasing. The American Physical Society Council recently issued a statement that is relevant:
SUPPLEMENTARY GUIDELINE ON REFERENCES IN PUBLICATIONS
Approved by Council, April 30, 2004
Authors have an obligation to their colleagues and the physics community to include a set of references that communicates the precedents, sources, and context of the reported work. Proper referencing gives credit to those whose research has informed or led to the work in question, helps to avoid duplication of effort, and increases the value of a paper by guiding the reader to related materials. It is the responsibility of authors to have surveyed prior work in the area and to include relevant references.
Proper and complete referencing is an essential part of any physics research publication. Deliberate omission of apertinent author or reference is unethical and unacceptable.
This is an awful situation which can not be simply solved. My first inclination would be to take Desmond Lawler's first suggestion, that is, do nothing. Write it off and charge ahead. I have seen people become all consumed by attempts to right wrongs. One colleague and old friend from an Ivy League school has been so obsessed with setting the record straight [on his idea that was "stolen"] that he has not been productive for the past two years, and he has been emotionally consumed by this experience.
If the person decides to pursue the issue further, I think Bruce Palka's suggestion of contacting NSF makes sense.
NINTH RESPONSE (May 18, 2004)
Director, Division of Graduate Education (NSF)
Rick, this is a challenging situation, particularly for the student. The NSF does take such allegations seriously, and the consequences are substantial if the allegations are confirmed. Allegations of misconduct may be reported to the Office of the Inspector General. Policy is such that the grantee, i.e., the university, bears responsibility for investigating the allegation and protecting the informant. In the event that the university defers, the IG may conduct its own investigation. It seems to me that the student might want to consider whether there is enough evidence that a) the origination of the faculty's idea was in the review of the student's proposal, b) the student's idea was original and unique and not likely to appear in another researcher's thinking or to be found in a published source, c) the named faculty actually reviewed the specific proposal for NSF, d) the faculty communicated (inappropriately) the nature of the research to students working with them, etc. I state all these elements only to reinforce Jim's point that the effort and strain involved may deflect the student from energetically pursuing his/her research and career. Only the student can judge, however. Hope this is helpful.
TENTH RESPONSE (May 18, 2004)
Marye Anne Fox
Chancellor, North Carolina State University and incoming Chancellor,
University of California, San Diego
You should be aware that others have had somewhat similar experiences. I know one instance in which several sections lifted directly from a proposal appeared as written in a proposal by another VERY well known scholar. It was clear that the author's ideas were taken verbatim from his proposal in that typographical errors in the original proposal were repeated verbatim in the other proposal. The author complained to the NIH who did an investigation that lasted years, before the culprit admitted that a postdoc had lifted the material (innocently, he claimed).
Do recognize that unless there is explicit evidence of intellectual theft that there may in fact be an alternate explanation. Usually a reviewer is chosen on the basis of having a wide knowledge of the chosen area. If so, the act of having reviewed a proposal may have broadened the reviewer's appreciation for an alternate approach. The reviewer may be reflecting this alternative long after he/she read and critiqued the original proposal and may have forgotten where this idea came from. This view does not excuse the reviewer's behavior but this may be intellectual sloppiness rather than outright intentional fraud.
If so, Duderstadt's advice might be a little more palatable.
Hope this helps.
ELEVENTH RESPONSE (May 18, 2004)
Professor, Communication Studies
Wow. I'm outraged. As someone wont to undertake crusades, I believe that this instance ought not be allowed to go by unsanctioned. The published essay by A, B, C, and D will have to be cited by the student or s/he will be faulted for not noting the literature. The diss work, if ever reviewed as a book ms. or series of articles, will be questioned as to its new contributions if those contributions have been published elsewhere. And what if A, B, or C ends up being the book or article reviewer? A & B, as well known people in the student's area of research, may likely be asked to fill that role.
So it is my opinion that the student's advisor or graduate college dean should become an advocate for the student and pursue whatever legal, financial, and public opportunities there are to expose this unethical practice and to get redress of some sort--an author credit on the published article, at the very least. Perhaps this can happen without the authors in question being charged, fined, suspended or whatever.
If this ever happened to me I'd pursue some avenues that were politically safer (not asking for penalties against A, B, C, or D but asking for credit) and still protected the student's integrity and career.
TWELFTH RESPONSE (May 19, 2004)
President Larry Faulkner
Interesting, Rick. I have not personally encountered this sort of thing closely enough to be able to give details, but I have heard at least one colleague claim that something similar happened to him. Three observations:
1. The student should not be too certain about what happened here. His or her implication may be right on the money, but it is also true that the next steps in science are generally pretty obvious to the community, and people can get onto the same road independently, even to the extent of using the same experimental systems. The details that are given here are not so definitive that such a coincidence could be ruled out.
2. Science, like all human enterprises, has honest and dishonest practitioners. The student should not be too surprised that the sins of humankind at large are also present in science. Overall, I think science is a pretty honest undertaking as human activity goes, but it is not perfect.
3. Jim Duderstadt's advice is well taken. This is not the time in the student's career to perfect the human species--or even to take a large amount of time to correct this wrong. He or she needs to get on with his or her own agenda. If I were in this position, I would just move forward, but I would also keep a close eye henceforth on A, B, C, and D.
THIRTEENTH RESPONSE (May 19, 2004)
James Austin, Ph.D.
North American Editor
Science's Next Wave
Rick-Allow me to add my two cents.
1. To me, based on conversations I've had with young scientists, this seems fairly common.
2. People who THINK they know who a reviewer is are often wrong, so these accusations, while well intentioned, could be wrong.
3. Though it's true that most good scientists have lots of good ideas, science is fundamentally collaborative; like everyone else, scientists are influenced by everything they come in contact with, and unless they are far more conscientious (and self-aware) than average, they are likely to "steal" something like this without ever acknowledging, even to themselves, where the idea came from. This is especially true when the direct beneficiary will (in the guilty party's view) be someone they are "mentoring."
4. The student absolutely should do NOTHING. Of this (and little else) I am sure. If these senior profs you consulted wish to pursue this, and can do so without harming this student's career (though this is unlikely), let them. But let's not leave battles like this to the most vulnerable.
5. In my view (as an important aside) a far more common--and widely ignored--ethical issue is the "theft" of intellectual property by PIs. It is very common--but an unambiguous violation of most journal authorship policies--for a lab head to claim authorship, even first authorship, on a publication they've made no intellectual contribution to. (In my field--physics--"last author" status is often reserved for the head of the lab, but apparently in other fields this is not a position of honor, and, anyway, if the PI made no SPECIFIC intellectual contribution to the work s/he should not be listed as an author. Here, as a sample, are the guidelines from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors:
"Authorship credit should be based on: 1) substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; 2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and 3) final approval of the version to be published. Authors should meet conditions 1, 2, and 3."
From the same source:
"Acquisition of funding, collection of data, or general supervision of the research group, alone, does not justify authorship."
I've heard MANY stories of young scientists who were bumped from their rightful place at the front of the author list in favor of the PI or a favored postdoc. This is ethically more ambiguous, since author guidelines are often less specific--that is, they give less importance to--the order of the authors. Yet the scientific community, and each discipline, has (have) their own informal standards, and these should be adhered to.
In today's highly competitive research workplace, first authorship, instead of second authorship, on a paper in a top journal can make the difference for a young scientist between a tenure-track job and the endless postdoc. If you happen to end up in a lab where this is commonplace, you may well miss out on several such opportunities. This, of course, is the sort of thing potential grad students and postdocs should consider before accepting a position, but postdocs rarely do, and graduate students, I expect, almost never, despite the efforts of publications like Next Wave to get the word out.
It would be interesting to do an anonymous survey. Now there is an idea....
FOURTEENTH RESPONSE (May 21, 2004)
From the Student Who Originally Posted the Case
First and foremost, I want to express my appreciation to Dr. Cherwitz, to the other members of disslist who have responded on list and privately, and to those who have provided feedback on the basis of the information Dr. Cherwitz forwarded.
I wanted to pass along the conclusion to the story, at least the conclusion to date. Let me pass on what I have done since my first post.
I have shared the information with my dissertation advisor, who was very supportive, and realistic in his assessment of the situation. I also spoke with some close friends, some within academia, others on the outside, and including one friend with a legal background. I also spoke with the other principals involved in writing the original proposal, as any decision made would also affect them.
Everyone who I have spoken and shared details of what I found with, agree that while the time line and research direction is suspicious, we can't prove that the ideas were misappropriated, either intentionally, or through academic sloppiness. Pursuing the accusation would potentially harm not only my career, but possibly the careers of the other principals involved in the proposal. We decided that we had two choices, either to brood over it, or to get on with what we are doing. We have chosen to do the latter, at least for the time being, although we will be closely watching the activities of Author A in the future.
Our discussions did reveal some interesting lessons. These I think are worth sharing.
1) Make a decision at the beginning of the research process, as to whether you will pursue intellectual property protection for the results of your research. You can always decide later to not pursue intellectual property protections, but deciding at a later date to pursue intellectual property protection is always more difficult. We didn't begin this research with any concern for intellectual property protections, but are now trying to pursue them. Had we considered that there was potential intellectual
property in the research, we would have done some things differently.
2) If you begin with the assumption that intellectual property might exist, you can claim some proprietary information protections in proposals. NSF does have policies that allow for this. The original proposal we submitted three years ago did not exercise any protections. Perhaps we should have? It would have given us a stronger case than we now have at least.
3) We probably should have been more proactive in publishing early, even though we did not get funding with our initial proposal. Had we pursued a scaled down version of what we proposed - comparable to the work performed by Author D, and published in 18 months, we would still have beaten Author D to press by 12 months. And we would have put what my dissertation advisor calls a "pointer" in the literature, making subsequent proposals easier. With this kind of rapid publication of even preliminary results, it would be difficult for an idea to successfully be stolen.
So, for now we are actively pushing towards getting results published now, before my dissertation is complete, rather than after. We are also continuing to pursue possible IP protections on my research results despite our initial missteps. Ironically, one of the other principals on the original proposal works for the same organization as Authors B, C and D (although an entirely different branch). Not only have we received some assistance from that organization, but apparently, so did Author D during their research. (Neither branch of this organization was aware that someone else was being funded to do similar research at the time.) Consequently, this organization owns IP rights to some of my research, and quite likely to that of Author D as well. It may well turn out that the IP will be jointly owned by all involved parties. However, that is a tale for another day.
Again, let me thank everyone for your comments, help and support. Hearing the good stories, the bad stories, and just being able to share my current frustrations with this list made things much easier. It makes being on this list immensely valuable.
Thanks, and now back to the lab...
FIFTEENTH RESPONSE (August
From NSF's Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
The operation of our office is described on the web site www.oig.nsf.gov. In brief, we investigate allegations of research misconduct and administrative wrongdoing in NSF operations, and in proposals made to, or research funded by, the National Science Foundation. The web site outlines the tools we use to carry out such investigations, including the ability to examine all aspects of the NSF review process for submitted proposals. Allegations can be brought to NSF OIG anonymously, or when continued contact is necessary, confidential source status can be requested. Confidentiality and professionalism of the investigative process is primary.
We do not oversee research integrity in a general sense. We have jurisdiction to act only in instances that have a connection to NSF, and we make recommendations to protect NSF interests. Recent cases and their adjudications are described in our semiannual reports. Several recent reports are available from the web site.
The responses that are documented on your discussion server for the situation described by the student illustrate a range of opinions. Several responses discuss the need for additional facts; our office was mentioned in one response. Gathering of the facts is an early step in an inquiry and investigation, followed by placing the action of individuals and institutions in perspective of the relevant scientific community.
I would appreciate if you could forward this email to the individual who first brought concerns to you. I can be reached by phone or email should that person choose. In addition, our office has an outreach program that helps to describe what we do and why. Some of our presentations are available from the web site. We also travel to universities to make such presentations on invitation.
Thank you again.