Bullying and the AOM Code of Ethics

Bullying is not mentioned by name in the AOM Code of Ethics. However, principles laid out in the Code make it clear that such behaviors are not appropriate. Members commit to uphold these principles when joining the association. By understanding AOM’s expectations and knowing about the help available for dealing with problematic situations, we can improve our own professional ethics and serve as a resource to others.

  • The principle of responsibility points to the importance of trusting relationships and the necessity of avoiding conflicts of interest that could lead to exploitation or harm.
  • The principle of integrity states that members treat students, colleagues, research subjects, and clients with respect, dignity, fairness, and caring.
  • The principle of respect for people’s rights and dignity affirms the worth of all people and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination. This principle clarifies the expectation for awareness and respect for cultural, individual, and role differences. Members try to eliminate the effect on their own work of biases based on these factors, and do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices. The AOM and its members are committed to providing academic and professional work environments that are free of sexual harassment and all forms of sexual intimidation and exploitation.

AOM’s principles are guideposts for members’ attitudes and actions. The Code of Ethics is enforceable when we are interacting with others in our Divisions or Committees, at conferences or AOM-sponsored events. In other words, we have the right to address any issues we experience or observe.  Review the Policies and Procedures or send an email to the Ombuds Committee with any questions:  ethics@aom.org. While not enforceable outside of AOM activities, the Code articulates aspirational goals that guide us toward the highest ideals of research, teaching, practice, and service.

The annual conference for 2018 focused on Improving Lives, and the conference for 2019 will focus on Inclusion. These themes call us to re-examine our academic and professional lives and recommit to principles articulated in our Code of Ethics.

The following post was previously published on SAGE MethodSpace.

Bullying: Bad for People, Bad for Scholarship

Bully

Bullying in the academic workplace keeps coming up in conversations with faculty and graduate students. I’ve discovered a new term for the safe spaces where people reveal such confidences: hush harbors (Nunley 2011). I would like to think that a commitment to higher education translates into a commitment to acting from a higher calling, but alas, when I find myself in a hush harbor, stories about bullying abound. I’ve had enough first-hand experience to know that these stories are real.

I decided to take a look at the literature—what do researchers find when they study their own workplaces? What strategies do they recommend? This is far from an exhaustive exploration of research on bullying, but hopefully you will find some helpful background on the problem, and tips for preventing or addressing it.

Is bullying endemic to academia?

While bullying is present in all kinds of workplaces, such behaviors are apparently exacerbated by power structures particular to higher education.  One adjunct instructor, frustrated by inaction at her university, observed that “the highly competitive, hierarchical atmosphere of academia is well-known as a fertile breeding ground for bullying behavior” (Anonymous, 2018). While much of this activity is private, unreported, and hidden, the incidence of bullying is much higher in academia than in other professional settings (Hollis, 2013).

Bullying in academic institutions has implications beyond the individual suffering. These behaviors can also create a chilling effect on the important work of academia: to teach and develop future scholars who are respectful of each other and can work across disciplines and diverse cultures to conduct and write about research. Keashly and Neuman (2010) found that intellectual inquiry, independent thought, and reasoned discussion suffer in environments where bullying is allowed to continue without consequence. Victims (and those around them) too often remain silent, in fear of retaliation that could sabotage their graduate studies, opportunities to publish, and/or careers.

What is bullying?

Bullying is a pattern of behavior involving repeated unreasonable actions of an individual or group of individuals toward another, which have the intention of shaming, dishonoring, intimidating, and disheartening, and which create a risk to the health or safety of another (SHARP, 2012). Academic incivility includes rude and disrespectful behaviors such as

  • giving colleagues or subordinates the silent treatment
  • micromanagement
  • constant criticism
  • gossip
  • exclusion
  • patronizing behavior
  • belittling others’ work
  • taking credit for others’ work. (Clark et al., 2013).

In our information-intensive age, many of these forms of bullying can take place online, with repercussions that extend beyond one’s own department. The Internet and social media offer new ways for bullies to transmit harmful text messages, photos, or video, sometimes anonymously (Washington, 2014). It is easy to share private information without permission (Condon, 2014), for example, forwarding personal email, posting someone’s ideas out of context, or distributing work-in-progress shared in an informal setting.

What can we do about bullying? 

All of the writers referenced here discussed the fact that having a policy in place is essential but inadequate. A policy document buried on the university website is useless without ongoing attention to the problems. Wright and Hill (2015) suggest that institutions define and discuss a clear strategy for confidential reporting with impunity for victims, and establish consequences for the perpetrators” (p. 17).  An ombuds office that offers a neutral advice about how to address a situation can be an important component of a holistic campus-wide approach.

Wright and Hill (2015) recommend making collegiality, that is, demonstrating a spirit of community and collaboration, a key component of tenure and promotion requirements and faculty evaluations. Rather than pretend that bullying doesn’t exist, discuss and address incidences of incivility. Mentoring and coaching by chairs or senior faculty, particularly with new faculty and graduate students, can help to communicate expectations and options for dealing with difficult situations (Metzger, Petit, & Sieber, 2015).

At the individual level, speaking up is easier said than done and confrontation with the bully is almost never productive (King & Piotrowski, 2015). Practical advice for individuals includes keeping records of specific incidents, submitting corroborative evidence of incivility or incidents directly to the bully’s immediate supervisor, and documenting any and all complaints (King & Piotrowski, 2015).  Sedivy-Benton et al. (2015) suggest a key survival strategy: detachment from the environment in which bullying occurred and attachment to another positive, supportive environment. In such an environment, a hush harbor, collegiality and productive relationships can take away some of the pressure inherent in a hostile environment.

Karen Pyke, past president of the Pacific Sociological Association, called for sociologists “to embrace our professional responsibilities and apply our scholarly knowledge and commitments to the reduction of inequality in our own workplace. If we can’t do it here, can we do it anywhere?” (Pyke, 2018) Surely her question applies to all disciplines! How will you—and your institution—answer it? Please use the comment area to share relevant studies or strategies.

 

References

Anonymous. (2018). We need a bigger conversation about bullying in academia. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2018/jan/26/we-need-a-bigger-conversation-about-bullying-in-academia

Clark, C. M. (2013). National study on faculty-to-faculty incivility: Strategies to foster collegiality and civility. Nurse Educator38, 98-102.

Collins, N. R., & Rogers, B. (2017). Growing concerns with workplace incivility. Workplace Health & Safety, 65(11), 564-564. doi:10.1177/2165079917719468

Condon, B. B. (2014). Incivility as bullying in nursing education. Nursing Science Quarterly, 28(1), 21-26. doi:10.1177/0894318414558617

Keashly, L., & Neuman, J. H. (2010). Faculty experiences with bullying in higher education: Causes, consequences, and management. Administrative Theory & Praxis32, 48-70.

King, C., & Piotrowski, C. (2015). Bullying of educators by educators: Incivility in higher education. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 8(4), 257-262.

Metzger, A. M., Petit, A., & Sieber, S. (2015). Mentoring as a way to change a culture of academic bullying and mobbing in the humanities. Higher Education for the Future, 2(2), 139-150. doi:10.1177/2347631115584119

Misawa, M., & Rowland, M. L. (2014). Academic bullying and incivility in adult, higher, continuing, and professional education. Adult Learning, 26(1), 3-5. doi:10.1177/1045159514558415

Nunley, Vorris L. 2011. Keepin’ it hushed: The barbershop and African American hush harbor rhetoric. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University.

Pyke, K. D. (2018). Institutional betrayal: Inequity, discrimination, bullying, and retaliation in academia. Sociological Perspectives, 61(1), 5-13. doi:10.1177/0731121417743816

Sedivy-Benton, A., Strohschen, G., Cavazos, N., & Boden-McGill, C. (2014). Good ol’ boys, mean girls, and tyrants: a phenomenological study of the lived experiences and survival strategies of bullied women adult educators. Adult Learning, 26(1), 35-41. doi:10.1177/1045159514558411

SHARP (Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention) Program. (2012). Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behavior: What Everyone Needs to Know. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

Washington, E. T. (2014). An overview of cyberbullying in higher education. Adult Learning, 26(1), 21-27. doi:10.1177/1045159514558412

Covert Research & Consent: RM Winning Paper

“Reconsidering the Value of Covert Research: The Role of Ambiguous Consent in Participant Observation”  (Roulet, Gill, Stenger, & Gill, 2017) will be awarded best paper for 2017 by the Academy of Management Research Methods division. The study was published in the SAGE journal, Organizational Research Methods, and is open access through this link.

This thought-provoking paper raises a number of questions not only about the nature of informed consent in organizational research, but also about constraints presented by the codes of ethics and guidelines researchers are compelled to follow. To learn more, I posed a few questions to lead author Thomas Roulet.


JS: You mentioned the Academy of Management Code of Ethics, which specifically states that informed consent should be obtained for all research. Do you recommend that this language be amended? If so, what would you suggest to change the wording, while respecting the principle of “Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity” spelled out in the AOM Code?

TR: Yes, our point is that obtaining full “informed consent” from all participants is more of an unreachable myth than anything else in ethnographic research – because consent is by nature ambiguous. Participants might consent at a point in time then change their mind, they might not comprehend the role of the researcher or the purpose of the enquiry in the same way the researcher does, etc.

Consent does matter in most cases, but the limitations of this mechanism need to be acknowledged in the AOM codes of ethics. The nature of the consent should definitely be documented in research papers, but a requirement to obtain informed consent is probably too strong.

JS: You discuss the perspective that “if something can be unanimously accepted as positive, it is the right course of action” (p. 502). In practical research terms, how could this perspective be used? Who would need to be consulted to verify that the agreement is unanimous? For example, if the managers or gatekeepers are unanimous about a covert study of employees, but no employees are consulted, would researchers proceed or insist that some employees be included in a discussion of the merits of the study?

TR: There we talk about the consequentialist perspective as one way to justify covert research – The consequentialist argument is the most commonly used in support of deception in research design as it stresses the necessity to be under cover in some cases to research important topics and produce work that can have positive social impact. As we point out, this approach is important but can be a bit simplistic – how do we compare the cost and benefits of a course of action? (the Rawlsian critique). That’s why we advance a situated ethics perspective where researchers are asked to revise their evaluation of the ethicality of their research on a regular basis.

Ethics committees in universities could examine whether the benefits of a research for society would justify deviance from the norm of informed consent.

Managers and gatekeepers can be unanimous about a covert study (that’s what can be understood in the case of Bernstein’s study of a Chinese factory) but involving employees into assessing risks and benefits of the study would be indeed more respectful and avoid the study being seen as managerial tool rather than objective and useful research.

JS: I spent a lot of my career as a research supervisor for doctoral students. The situated ethics approach you recommend seems to suggest that researchers reflect deeply and “morally question” potential actions and choices (p. 503). Do you see a role for research supervisors in facilitating such reflection? Do you think situated ethics should be taught in research methods courses? For that matter, should students be taught skills associated with researcher identity?

TR: The “situated ethics” perspective is sort of a “Bayesian” approach to ethical questioning in research – the researcher needs to question and challenge her or his moral situation at each stage of the data collection.

Supervisors can definitely play a role by questioning the ethical aspects of their students’ work and research design. Situated ethics do require confrontation of points of view and external assessment – although not necessarily possible during field work- can be of great use.

JS: The use of covert observation or covert participant observation in online studies has been widely discussed. Did you examine any online studies, or did you purposely decide to focus on studies conducted in on-site organizations?

TR: We did mostly focus on physical presence but you raise an important question and I’m not familiar with the work you mention. Consent in netnography is indeed quite often neglected – online data can be collected without the knowledge or consent of participants.

Covert research is in some way easier online as people can more easily create fake persona for themselves (I’m thinking about this paper:  Brotsky, S. R., & Giles, D. (2007). Inside the “pro-ana” community: A covert online participant observation. Eating disorders15(2), 93-109.)

JS: Briefly describe how and why you and your co-authors decided to write this article. Given the ethical dilemmas and gray areas you discussed in the article, were all of you in agreement? What was most challenging about the process?

TR: My co author Seb Stenger and I published a paper based on covert participant observation (published in the journal of the British Sociological Association – Work employment and society). We had a lot of discussion – also with Michael and David Gill who shaped the paper with us. Michael brought a lot of methodological expertise, and I brought my understanding of various ethical perspectives.

Stenger, S., & Roulet, T. J. (2018). Pride against prejudice? The stakes of concealment and disclosure of a stigmatized identity for gay and lesbian auditorsWork, Employment and Society32(2), 257-273.

JS: Did you receive any push-back from the journal about the content of the article? Did reviewers raise questions? Did you have to make substantive revisions?

TR: Overall the reviewers and the editor were very supportive – they asked us to beef up the aspects of the manuscript about the ethics of research and offer a wide range of perspective. We were also pushed to compare different fields, which I think was very useful to develop the manuscript. We had three rounds of fairly intense revision but it was a very developmental and enjoyable process (and we know how revision can be very painful!).

JS: What suggestions do you have for researchers who want to rock the proverbial boat and publish articles that question established traditions?

TR: I think it can be very hard to publish more controversial papers (counterintuitive results, or methods). You have to provide stronger evidence, stronger and more developed arguments. But once published the impact on the field is greater and hopefully it can open up new debates!

 

Roulet, T. J., Gill, M. J., Stenger, S., & Gill, D. J. (2017). Reconsidering the value of covert research: The role of ambiguous consent in participant observation. Organizational Research Methods, 20(3), 487-517. doi:10.1177/1094428117698745


Learn more about research ethics from resources collected in these SAGE Research Methods Reading Lists!

 

Note: This post previously appeared on SAGE Publications MethodSpace.

Student abuse by faculty

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling, lately, which in part accounts for my relative silence over the past few weeks. However, in the course of traveling, I keep coming across a set of similar stories, from throughout the world, although principally from developing countries, in particular, China and those in Africa.

The stories tend to be similar, in terms of exploitation of doctoral or junior faculty members, and go like this:

“At our university, the senior faculty insist that their names go first on every paper I produce, even those that they have not contributed to, in any way”.

Or,

“At our university, doctoral students do all the data collection analysis, and writing, but our names are never put on the paper – only that of the senior faculty”.

When I hear these stories, as both a scholar and an editor, I am outraged.  How is it that faculty members can openly exploit students and junior scholars is such a blatant fashion?  Why is it that no professional organization exists to come to their defense? Unfortunately, we are collectively partially responsible, as the publish or perish norms and intense competition that we have helped develop only exacerbates this problem.  It is, after all, a collective problem.

Of course, the exploitation of students is not entirely new. The recent movie “the Stanford Prison Experiment” shows the extent to which Lombardo went during his study, and the expense those participants must have paid.  Zimbardo, then an ambitious recently tenured scholar, was a consultant on the film, and it reportedly accurately reflects what took place. His subsequent work was devoted to more pristine socially progressive causes, such as understanding shyness. No surprise there…

Our code of ethics does address these issues, although not as directly as one might think. For example, on the aspiration side, with regard to integrity:

  1. Integrity

AOM members seek to promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness in the science, teaching, and practice of their profession. In these activities AOM members do not steal, cheat, or engage in fraud, subterfuge, or intentional misrepresentation of fact. They strive to keep their promises, to avoid unwise or unclear commitments, and to reach for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and practice. They treat students, colleagues, research subjects, and clients with respect, dignity, fairness, and caring. They accurately and fairly represent their areas and degrees of expertise.

Regarding specifically students:

  1. To our students. Relationships with students require respect, fairness, and caring, along with commitment to our subject matter and to teaching excellence. We accomplish these aims by:

Showing respect for students. It is the duty of AOM members who are educators to show appropriate

respect for students’ feelings, interests, needs, contributions, intellectual freedom, and rights to

privacy.  Maintaining objectivity and fairness. It is the duty of AOM members who are educators to treat  students equitably. Impartiality, objectivity, and fairness are required in all dealings with students.

1.6. Exploitative Relationships: AOM members do not exploit persons over whom they have evaluative or other authority, such as authors, job seekers, or student members.

And finally,

4.2.2. Authorship Credit

4.2.2.1. AOM members ensure that authorship and other publication credits are based on the scientific or professional contributions of the individuals involved.

4.2.2.2. AOM members take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only for work they

have actually performed or to which they have contributed.

4.2.2.3. AOM members usually list a student as principal author on multiply authored publications that  substantially derive from the student s dissertation or thesis.

I underlined the word “usually” under 4.2.2.3. I assume that the exception referred to are situations where the student would not be listed as principal author, but would be listed as co-author (although what these would be, and why they would be exceptions, is a bit of a mystery to me). However, it appears that from the perspective of some of our international members, this ‘exception’ may leave open the interpretation that a scholar may occasionally NOT cite a student as co-author, even when they are  a principal author. Further, and unfortunately, there is no mention of adding authorship to work where the scholar did NOT make a contribution (although 4.2.2.1 does seem to imply that such a deed would not be welcome).

So, what can we do collectively to eradicate this practice of exploitive advising? How can we get the message across different cultures and institutions that when an author submits a paper, the assumption by the editor – indeed, the social contract – ensures that an appropriate amount of work has been conducted by that author reflecting the order of authorship? Further, perhaps it is time our code of ethics become a bit more specific regarding some of these practices, in order to make it explicitly clear that exploitation of any sort is unwelcome in our profession.

Ethics and Ethnography

I’ve been having some interesting conversations over at OrgTheory with Victor Tan Chen about the ethical dilemmas that ethnographers face in their research practices. This is closely related to the issues that Benson picked up on in his recent post, noting that our Code of Ehics requires us “to preserve and protect the privacy, dignity, well-being, and freedom of [our] research participants.” In this post, I’d like to bring out to important dimensions which we might distinguish into a concern with our “scientific” and our “professional” integrity.

As scientists, we are concerned with the truth. So, when we observe something in our fieldwork we feel a duty to report those events as they actually happened. But sometimes we have to modify our description of those events, leave them out, or even outright fictionalize them, in order to protect our research subjects from the consequences of making their actions public. (This is not always, but sometimes, because they are themselves involved in unethical or illegal activities, which raises an additional dilemma.) Once we do this, of course, we have made a compromise, we have sacrificed a little bit of truth for the sake of a, presumably, greater bit of justice.

But at the next level of analysis, we now have to ask ourselves whether we are inadvertently circulating falsehoods. Will our readers begin to tell certain anecdotes to their peers and students as though they are “true stories” even though the actual events are very different? What for us might merely be slight embellishment for the sake of concealing an identity or a location, might for our readers become an illuminating “fact” about how the world works.

Consider an analogy to medical science. Obviously, you don’t want to end up claiming that a pill has effects it doesn’t actually have or doesn’t have effects it actually does. That’s why you don’t leave out information about the population that you have tested it on. If you’ve only tested the pill on healthy men in their thirties, you don’t hide this fact in your write up because it’s important to know that its effects on seventy year-old women with high blood pressure are largely unknown. Similarly, if you’ve done your ethnographic research in rural China, you don’t “anonymize it” by saying it was done in India or the US. The context matters, and it is often very difficult to know how to characterize the context while also making it non-specific enough not to reveal who your actual research subjects were.

The broader professional issue has to do with preserving our collective to access to the communities that we want to remain knowledgeable about. If Wall Street bankers always find themselves written about by ethnographers as greedy sociopaths (and assuming they don’t self-identify as greedy sociopaths) or citizens of low-income neighborhoods always find themselves described as criminals, they will slowly develop a (not entirely unfounded) distrust of ethnographers and will, therefore, be less likely to open up their practices to our fieldwork. As Victor points out, these are issues that journalists also face, and which they have a variety of means to deal with. Many of these means can be sorted under “ethics”.

Let me emphasize that these are issues we must face collectively, i.e., as a profession. Losing access to empirical data is not just a risk you face personally in your own work. If your peers don’t enforce disciplinary standards then we’ll all lose credibility when engaging with practitioners. For this reason I also agree with the anonymous commenter on my last post: we must lead by example and, unfortunately, every now and then we must make examples of each other.

How should we treat each other as scientific subjects?

At the Academy meeting in Vancouver this year, it was brought to my attention that there were PDW’s collecting research data on participating members – without a clear ethics approval or apparent ethics protocol. That is, there was no informed consent, yet data appeared to be collected.

This was not the first time I observed our collective avoidance of Ethics Review Board (ERB) or Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocol when surveying ourselves.  As previous chair of AOM’s ethics education committee, I was tasked with repeating the ethics survey that we had administered to our entire membership some years before. The first thing that I did was to ask for the ethics review board protocol, in order to be sure I was following accepted procedures.

After a few weeks of embarrassing emails and back and forth confirmations, it was eventually clear that we had never submitted our own ethics survey to any kind of ethics review board. I was told that when the AOM board met to discuss this issue there was some hesitancy to constrain the activities of divisions surveying their membership – and no clear path to indicate who would serve as an accepted IRB for Academy research. My own decision was to obtain ERB approval and protocols from my own university, and proceed with the survey in that manner.

Many of us feel IRB’s are a burden. However, it is worth noting how many of these regulations came about.  For one, experiments on concentration camp victims horrified the scientific community, leading to the Nuremberg code. Much later, the experiments by Stanley Milgrom attempted to understand how people willingly agreed to do terrible acts to each other. His work, as well as famous Zimbardo prison simulation study, have led to tighter constraints on how to approach research, what is acceptable, and when ‘the line is crossed”.

One of my very first sociology professors was Laud Humphreys. He was famous for studying homosexual activities in public toilets, where he acted as the “watchqueen”. Later, he surreptitiously followed participants to their cars, identified their license plates, and showed up at their home disguised as a surveying health worker. This was done in 1960’s before IRB’s were mandated by the US federal government.

In fact, we have Academy members who come from countries where there is little of any oversight regarding research, particularly social science research.  However, I would argue we have a collective responsibility to observe the highest standards of research protocol, despite the burden, for our entire membership.

Our own code of ethics addresses this issue, although not as stridently as one might expect, as there is no specific mention of IRB procedures:

Participants. It is the duty of AOM members to preserve and protect the privacy, dignity, well-being,and freedom of research participants.

1.7. Informed Consent: When AOM members conduct research, including on behalf of the AOM or its divisions, they obtain the informed consent of the individual or individuals, using language that is reasonably understandable to that person or persons. Written or oral consent, permission, and assent are documented appropriately.

2.4. Anticipation of Possible Uses of Information:

2.4.1. When maintaining or accessing personal identifiers in databases or systems of records, such as division rosters, annual meeting submissions, or manuscript review systems, AOM members delete such identifiers before the information is made publicly available or employ other techniques that mask or control disclosure of individual identities.

2.4.2. When deletion of personal identifiers is not feasible, AOM members take reasonable steps to determine that the appropriate consent of personally identifiable individuals has been obtained before they transfer such data to others or review such data collected by others

Most North American universities are under strict IRB procedures.  They are virtually unanimous in stating that all surveys involving human subjects should be subjected to ERB committees. Here are a few statements from the Canadian “Tri Counsel” that governs Canadian universities:

If the primary purpose, design, content and/or function of such surveys is to conduct “research”2 involving humans, then it would generally require REB review, under TCPS Article 1.1(a):

Very similar statements appear at the Cornell Univ. website:

At the end of the day, each of us, no matter where we do our scholarly work, have a responsibility to protect the respondent as much as possible, in every conceivable way. The distance between our own behavior, and the 16 German doctors convicted of experimenting on human beings without their consent, is an essential red line that we cannot allow to become a ‘slippery slope’. Thus, even when we decide to research ourselves, as professors, and colleagues, I believe we should commit to the highest standards of scientific ethical inquiry. Even if IRB’s are a ‘burden’.

 

 

 

It’s been great, and THE ETHICIST moves on…….

The Ethicist LogoThanks! It’s been great, and THE ETHICIST moves on…….

 

As Thomas Basboll’s post on THE ETHICIST (February 2, 2015) indicates, it is time for THE ETHICIST to engage in “A Change of Pace,” and take on new bloggers. We are delighted that the Academy of Management is continuing with this important community engagement space, and that Benson Honig and Thomas Basboll are taking on the lead blogging roles. We have a significant sense of ownership over the future of THE ETHICIST and plan to continue to be part of the blog, writing from time to time ourselves, as the blog moves ahead with new authors, editors and topics.

As we look back on the last several years since the inception of THE ETHICIST, it’s interesting to see how blogging itself has evolved. Much of the advice of best blogging practices reinforces what Thomas will change about THE ETHICIST, including shorter and more frequent posts, and expanding the scope of the discussions.  The international diplomacy-building organization DiploFoundation recommends using the “E.K.G.” approach for blogging: Engage with other blogs and your own readers, Keep the material fresh and exciting, and Give people a reason to return. The blog hosting site HubSpot says readers want to see the blogger’s personality come out, and that readers come back to blogs that treat topics in unusual and cross-disciplinary ways. All of this advice mirrors plans for THE ETHICIST and we are looking forward to seeing energetic treatment of ethical issues.

The common advice about blogging — no matter whose advice one takes — revolves around content: compelling, thoughtful and timely content is the make-or-break blog factor. And in this respect, we are confident that THE ETHICIST will broaden its community reach with Thomas and Benson at the helm. There is so much to share about how the Academy is integrating ethical practice into meetings and member resources, and how we as an academic community are grappling with significant ethical questions. All five of us are members of the Ethics Education Committee; we have facilitated lively discussions throughout the Academy in multiple ways and venues: at doctoral consortia, via webinars, through YouTube video discussions, and in myriad annual meeting sessions. We have found our fellow Academy members, particularly doctoral students, to be enormously interested in how to do the right thing, and how to resolve conflicts in ethics in ways that allow them to flourish.

Thank you to everyone who has supported THE ETHICIST so far. We gratefully acknowledge in particular the help of Terese Loncar; our advisory panels for research, teaching and professional life;  members of the Ethics Education Committee and the Board of Governors of the Academy of Management; and our home departments. We look forward to the great new conversations and connections to be made ahead.

Lorraine, Kathy & Paul

Lorraine Eden
Lorraine Eden
Kathy Lund Dean
Kathy Lund Dean
Paul Vaaler
Paul Vaaler

 

TWENTY QUESTIONS: ETHICAL RESEARCH DILEMMAS FOR PHD STUDENTS (PhD Students and Research Ethics, Part A)

THE ETHICIST: RESEARCH

Ethics in the Academy of Management

Subject:  Twenty Questions: Ethical Research Dilemmas for PhD Students (PhD Students and Research Ethics, Part A)

Columnists: 

Date:  October 16, 2014

KEY INSIGHT:  The PhD timeline, from admission through graduation, is a unique period in a scholar’s life. It is a time when students are apprentices, learning from faculty mentors how to become researchers and academics.  In the four to six years of a typical doctoral program, students engage in all stages of research from problem identification, literature reviews and theory development, through data collection and analysis, to writing, presenting and publishing their work.  At each stage, doctoral students face ethical research dilemmas, similar to those faced by faculty members, but with unique aspects that come from being doctoral students. This blog post is the first of two pieces examining research ethical dilemmas involving PhD students.  Part A consists of 20 research dilemmas that are meant to facilitate classroom or small group discussions among doctoral students and faculty about research ethics. Part B explores the unique aspects of doctoral students in the research process, implications for research misconduct, and possible coping mechanisms. My co-author Kevin McSweeney, a first year doctoral student in Management at Texas A&M University, and I welcome your comments.

INTRODUCTION

Each of the cases below may or may not have an ethical dilemma facing the PhD student. The cases are designed to encourage discussion on different topics that face PhD students in their research activities. We recommend the following questions to start the discussion:

  •  Is there an ethical dilemma here? If yes, what is it and why?
  • What are the available options facing the PhD student?
  • What ethical course of action do you recommend and why?  

A.    ENTRY/ADMISSIONS TO THE PHD PROGRAM

1.  Aidan decided to go back to school for his PhD in Management and had talked with the doctoral program director at University X several times by telephone. The program director assured Aidan that he would be able to work with renowned Professor Macro if Aidan chose to do his doctoral studies at University X. Aidan’s research interests aligned perfectly with Professor Macro’s research. Aidan was also convinced he would develop excellent research skills working under Professor Macro’s direction and might therefore have some publications before graduation. Aidan’s official visit to the university as well as his interactions with the program director during the visit went well and further strengthened his views. However, Professor Macro was out of town during Aidan’s visit so they did not meet. Nevertheless, the program director assured Aidan that Professor Macro loved to work with doctoral students. Aidan, taking into consideration the professor’s reputation in the field and the program director’s opinion that Aidan would be able to work with Professor Macro, accepted the offer to attend University X. After Aidan’s arrival, however, the situation turned out to be quite different. He discovered that Professor Macro was going on sabbatical leave for a year and that his passion for working with doctoral students had lessened. It became quite evident that the program director had not consulted with Professor Macro about his willingness or ability to work with incoming doctoral students. Aidan feels that he has been misled.

B.   RESEARCH PROJECTS

Intellectual Property Rights

2. Nicolas writes a term paper for his PhD seminar and presents it in class. Barbara, another PhD student in the class, is assigned to critique the term paper. Nicolas does not get a very good grade on the term paper and, after the class is over, he decides the term paper needs too much work to bring the paper up to publishable quality so he puts the paper on the “backburner.” Barbara, however, really likes this topic and writes her own paper, which she submits to the annual Academy of Management conference. Barbara’s paper is accepted for presentation at the meetings. Nicolas sees Barbara’s paper on the AOM conference program and realizes that her paper is on the same topic as his term paper. He accuses her of stealing his term paper.

Authorship

3. Two PhD students, James and Willem, are office mates. Each of them is working on a single-authored paper and they occasionally discuss their research ideas. They both know it is very important for their job search to have multiple papers on their CVs. James and Willem realize that, if they each added the other as a co-author, they would generate mutual benefits for each other: doubling their chances of a publication and beefing up their resumes when they enter the job market. They agree to go ahead and add each other has a co-author to the other’s papers.

4. Xiao is assigned as a research assistant to Professor Micro and spends the semester gathering and analyzing data for one of Professor Micro’s projects. Kevin is doing the same thing for Professor Macro. At the end of the semester, Professor Micro invites Xiao to be a co-author on a paper that will be based on their joint research; Professor Macro does not invite Kevin to be a co-author on a paper that will be based on their joint research. Xiao and Kevin discover the different treatment when they get together to discuss their research assignments this semester.

Order of Authors 

5.  Nadia and Christof are third year PhD students who will be on the job market next year. Nadia is working a joint research project with Professor X; Christof is doing the same with Professor Y. One day, Nadia and Christof are discussing their current research projects. Nadia tells Christof how excited she is to receive third authorship on the paper she is working on with Professor X. Christof mentions that he will be the first author on a paper he is working on with Professor Y. Nadia asks Christof how they determined the order of authorship. Christof admits to Nadia that Professor Y did most of the work on the paper, but Christof would be on the job market shortly so Professor Y agreed to give Christof first authorship. Nadia is perplexed. She tells Christof that Professor X, a foreign-born professor from a power-respecting culture, believes that authorship should be determined by seniority. Professor X was therefore unequivocal in assigning authorship based on seniority. Since Nadia had the least seniority on the project, she was automatically the last author regardless of her contribution. Christof informs Nadia that other professors in their department practice the same authorship philosophy as Professor Y, not Professor X.

6. Alain works with Bianca and Carlos, under the direction of Professor X, on a research paper. Alain is in his first year; Bianca and Carlos are both in their fourth year. The terms of authorship are solidified at the beginning of the project as follows (Professor X-Bianca-Carlos-Alain). Alain feels that the authorship agreement was fair and is excited to contribute to a project that has a high likelihood of being published. As the project progresses, Alain finds himself contributing more to the project than either Bianca or Carlos. The paper goes through several rounds of reviews, in which Alain does more work than either Bianca or Carlos. The paper finally gets accepted at a top journal, with the original authorship agreement, despite the incongruence in contributions made by the three PhD students. Alain does not want to upset too many people so he asks Denise, a fellow PhD student, for her opinion on the topic. Denise tells Alain that Professor X tends to give authorship order preference, regardless of actual contribution, to his more senior PhD students who will be entering the job market.

7.  Andrew, Barbara and Cameron are co-researchers on a project. All three are PhD students: Andrew and Cameron are in their second year; Barbara is on the job market. When they started this project, they agreed that the order of authors would be alphabetical because they each were contributing equally to the project. Now the paper is finished and they are getting ready to submit it to a journal. Barbara approaches Andrew and Cameron to ask if they could change the order of authors so that she can be first author. Barbara argues that she is on the job market and so needs the publication more than they do. Barbara promises to return the favor by being third author on the next two papers coming out of their work together.

Errors and Omissions

8.  Justin and Kara are working with Professor X on a joint paper. They are on a tight deadline; submission for the annual Academy of Management meetings is only two weeks away. Justin is tasked to collect some missing data for their empirical work. He is also in the middle of exams and so quickly gathers the data without checking the numbers. Kara discovers that the data are flawed, but realizes that if she brings this to the attention of Professor X they will likely miss the window for submitting the paper to the AOM meetings.

9. Isabella is a research assistant for Professor X on a project that extends work Professor X had already published in a top-tier journal. She is very excited to be included as a co-author on the paper Professor X is writing based on the research they have been doing. When Professor X invites her to read and comment on the first draft of the paper, she realizes that multiple paragraphs in the paper are identical to those in the earlier publication.

C.     RESEARCH PRESENTATIONS

10.  Lukas, while in the PhD program at University X, is working on a good paper that he likes very much. He wants to give the paper at a conference where he can get some good feedback on the paper prior to submitting it for publication in a journal. Lukas also likes to travel and sees that there are conferences coming up in Vancouver, San Diego and Miami, places where he has not visited and would like to visit. His department has the funds to send PhD students to these conferences. Lukas decides to submit the same paper to all three conferences, and he is delighted when the paper is accepted for presentation at all three venues.

11.  Rebecca is the lead author on a paper with two other PhD students Tomas and Jean Luis. Rebecca submits their co-authored paper for presentation at the annual Academy of Management meetings, but does not inform her co-authors, believing that they had a joint understanding that she would submit the paper to the AOM meetings. Jean Luis, as part of his work on other three research teams, had already agreed to submit the three papers to the AOM meetings; Jean Luis, therefore, was in violation of the Rule of Three that limited submissions by any one author to three papers. Jean Luis tells Rebecca that he is violating the Rule of Three. Rebecca suggests that she take Jean Luis’s name off their joint AOM submission now. If the paper is accepted and they do present it at the meetings, they will put Jean Luis’s name back on the paper and slide presentation; he can attend the session and present too. They will tell everyone in the session that Jean Luis is a co-author.

D.   DISSERTATION STAGE

Datasets

12.  Kayla has been working for a year, building a dataset for her dissertation. This dataset extends the original dataset provided by her dissertation chair by adding new variables and years. Kayla’s dissertation chair has several publications out of the original dataset. Kayla discovers, to her horror, that there is a major error in the variables constructed in the dataset and that the error is large enough to potentially invalidate the papers that her chair has already published. Kayla does not know whether (1) she should fix the error in her own dataset, (2) tell her chair about the problem and (3) whether to inform the journals where the papers were published that they are fundamentally flawed.

13.  Ashley has spent a year developing her dissertation dataset and is very proud of the work she has done. She believes the dataset will enable her to answer several unanswered questions in her field of study. She is getting close to defending her dissertation and her chair has asked for her to share her dataset with him. This particular professor has a reputation for not including PhD students as co-authors on his research projects. Ashley is worried that the professor may use her dataset, without including her as a co-author.

Authorship

14.  Jordan’s dissertation chair is an internationally famous scholar, traveling so much that she is seldom available to meet with Jordan. As a result, Jordan had basically written his dissertation by himself, with little to no help from his chair. When Jordan submits the dissertation to his chair, she tells Jordan that he must agree to put her name on all publications coming out of his dissertation or she will not sign off on the dissertation.

15. Patrice is working in his office on polishing up his dissertation, which will be defended next week. His chair comes into Patrice’s office, very excited, and tells Patrice that she has secured publication of his dissertation with a well-known scholarly press. The only string attached is that the book must have Patrice’s chair as a co-author and the chair must be the first author on the book.

Publication

16.  Javier’s dissertation at a US university is well underway with one main chapter and two supporting chapters. Javier receives an invitation from a former undergraduate professor in Mexico inviting him to publish a chapter out of his dissertation in the professor’s edited book. Javier will have a quick publication on his resume, making him more attractive on the job market. Javier will also have done a favor to his former professor who wrote a strong letter that helped Javier get accepted into this PhD program. Since the book will be published in Spanish, there is little chance that Javier’s chapter will be read by non-Spanish speaking scholars. Therefore, Javier does not think publishing his dissertation chapter in this edited book will create a problem for him submitting the chapter for publication in a scholarly journal afterwards.

17. Karolina’s dissertation consists of three papers, which is the norm at her university. While she is writing her dissertation, Karolina and a faculty member submit one of her chapters to a journal and the paper is accepted for publication as a co-authored article before Karolina has defended her dissertation. The chair of Karolina’s dissertation committee discovers that one of her dissertation chapters has been co-written with another faculty member, and the chair refuses to accept the chapter as part of her dissertation. Karolina’s chair tells her that all three chapters must be sole authored and none published prior to her defense; Karolina must therefore write another chapter.

E.   POST-DISSERTATION

18.  Stefanie’s dissertation chair offers Stefanie the opportunity to use the private dataset that he had hand collected for his own research. Stefanie’s chair requests, in return for use of the dataset, that he be included as a co-author on all publications by Stefanie that uses this dataset. Stefanie and her chair discuss this issue, and she agrees verbally to do this. Stefanie and her chair write several papers together. Ten years later, Stefanie writes and publishes a single-authored paper that uses the original dataset provided by her chair. Stefanie justifies the single-authored paper on the grounds that the theory development is hers and that “enough is enough”; 10 years of joint work is long enough to pay for the use of the original dataset. Stefanie’s chair is furious, arguing that they had a verbal agreement that all published work coming out of the original database should be joint authored.

19.  Fletcher and two other PhD students write an empirical paper investigating the impact of a particular set of variables on firm performance. In their paper, a second group of variables are treated as controls in the model. Fletcher graduates and takes a position at a foreign university. Once he is settled in, Fletcher starts a second project with colleagues in his new department. In this paper, the controls from the first paper are now independent variables, and the independent variables from the first paper are now controls. The two projects proceed independently, with only Fletcher aware of both projects. Both papers are submitted about the same time to different journals and, by chance, have a common reviewer. The reviewer tells both journal editors about the other paper and recommends that both papers should be rejected on the grounds they are too similar to one another.

20.  Lorraine is carving her dissertation into papers for submission to journals where she hopes they will be published. She prepares two papers and submits them about the same time to two journals, making no reference in either submission to the other paper. Both papers use the same dataset and share most of the same variables; however, the theoretical arguments and hypotheses are different. Lorraine is pleased when the first paper receives a positive revise-and-resubmit decision from Journal A, but disappointed when the second paper is rejected after review at Journal B. Lorraine makes minor modifications to the second paper based on the reviewers’ comments and submits the revised paper to Journal A, reasoning that the positive success that the first paper has received might be repeated with the second paper.  

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

These ethical scenarios were developed by the authors to illustrate the various types of ethical dilemmas that can face doctoral students in their research activities. All individuals appearing in these cases are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or to actual events or incidents is purely coincidental.

We gratefully acknowledge helpful comments by Chi Anyansi-Archibong, Jean Bartunek, Anthony Cannizzaro, Kathy Lund Dean, Michael Hitt, Benson Honig, Susan Jackson, Paul Sears, Laszlo Tihanyi,  Anne Tsui, Erik van Raaij and Stuart Youngblood on earlier versions of this post.

PDF DOWNLOADABLE VERSION OF THIS POST: THE-ETHICIST-BLOG-RESEARCH-2014-10-PHD-STUDENTS-PART-A-FINAL

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Retraction: Mistake or Misconduct?

THE ETHICIST: RESEARCH

Ethics in the Academy of Management

 

Columnist: Lorraine Eden, Visiting Professor (The Ohio State University) and Professor (Texas A&M University), leden@tamu.edu

Date: October 28, 2013

 

Subject:  RETRACTION: MISTAKE OR MISCONDUCT? 

 

KEY INSIGHT:  Seeing a journal article with the word “RETRACTION” written in diagonal watermark across the front page is probably a shock to most management and business scholars. Not only is the percentage of articles withdrawn from publication across all disciplines very small (the estimate is less than .02% per year), the number of retracted articles in business and management journals is small relative to those in, for example, biomedical journals. Recently, however, a number of our well-known journals including Journal of Management Studies, Organization Science and Strategic Management Journal – even the Journal of Business Ethics! — have posted retraction notices. Why are articles retracted? I discuss the various categories of article retraction, look at retraction in the context of business and management journals, provide examples of retraction categories,  and end with questions for discussion. Continue reading “Retraction: Mistake or Misconduct?”

Better by the Dozen: The Ethicist Blog Posts July 2011-Feb 2013

With the February 2013 blog post on “Ethics in Research Scenarios: What Would YOU Do?”,  The Ethicist has now published two dozen blogs on three areas of ethics that affect not only AOM members, but all members of the scholarly professions: research, teaching and professional life. Links to each of these posts are provided below, together with a downloadable one-page PDF for printing and circulation. Enjoy!

 

Continue reading “Better by the Dozen: The Ethicist Blog Posts July 2011-Feb 2013”

Ethics in Research Scenarios: What Would YOU Do?

KEY INSIGHT:  James Davis and Susan Madsen (former co-chairs of AOM’s Ethics Education Committee (EEC)) have developed four ethics in research scenarios, which they, EEC members and journal editors have taught to multiple doctoral consortia at the AOM annual meetings since 2008.  In this blog posting, Jim and Susan introduce their scenarios. A short annotated list of internet resources on teaching research ethics follows.  We hope that these resources will stimulate discussion about research ethics among the faculty and doctoral students at your institution. The Ethicist has migrated from AOM Connect and “gone public”; the blog is freely available for reading and download at http://divtest.aom.org/ethics/. Comments are welcome, and you are encouraged to circulate this blog posting (and earlier ones) to your colleagues and students.

   Continue reading “Ethics in Research Scenarios: What Would YOU Do?”