C-DEBI is committed to maintaining an environment that promotes high ethical standards in the conduct of research without inhibiting productivity or creativity of persons involved in research, regardless of the position or level of responsibility of those involved. C-DEBI does not tolerate misconduct in any aspect of research and will deal with misconduct associated with research forthrightly, in accordance with academic due process, and with respect for practices commonly accepted within the scientific community.
The online tutorial, Responsible Conduct of Research, is required of all funded C-DEBI participants. The tutorial is hosted on the Ethics CORE website. To take the tutorial:
- Register for an Ethics CORE account
- Choose “Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations” as your affiliation
- Take the online tutorial
Training modules include:
- Rights and Obligations;
- Collaboration, Communication, and Grants Management; and
- Intellectual Property
Conflict of Interest (CoI) Definitions and Policies
Definition of Conflict of Interest: The C-DEBI ExCom and Ethics Committee define a conflict of interest (CoI) as occurring when “an individual has multiple financial, personal or professional interests or is involved in multiple activities, one of which could compromise, or have the appearance of compromising, the motivation for an act in another.”
This definition is based on perception or potential for conflict, requiring that the STC operate with policies that prevent a CoI, avoiding the need for later redress or a loss of trust from the community at large.
Application of Conflict of Interest Policy to Review of Small Grant Proposals
Proposal review panel members may not review a proposal for which they have a CoI. In the context of proposal review, a CoI would include (but may not be limited to): being employed by the same institution, having a history of student/postdoctoral-advisor relationship, having had a personal (romantic or familial) relationship, being a recent (in the past five years) co-author on a publication or a co-PI on a recent proposal. In addition, members of a review panel who have a CoI with a proposal under review may not be part of conversations in which that proposal is evaluated or discussed. If proposals are to be ranked, a panel member with a CoI will not be permitted to rank a conflicted proposal.
Ethical Misconduct Resolution
Members of the C-DEBI community (both USC and non-USC based members) have two avenues for resolving a situation of potential ethical misconduct. The first avenue is to openly raise a complaint to the Ethics Panel. The second avenue allows the person raising the issue to remain anonymous to the C-DEBI community by calling the USC ethics hotline (http://ooc.usc.edu/help-hotline) and describing the problem. The USC Office of Compliance will then contact the C-DEBI Ethics Panel without identifying the person who supplied the information. The Ethics Panel will then work with the C-DEBI Executive Committee to resolve the situation. Any further contact with the original contact person will use the Office of Compliance as an intermediary.
A student notices that her PhD advisor has knowingly placed figures and data produced by one of her advisor’s previous post-docs into a new publication. There is no attribution in the authorship, acknowledgments, or citations for that post-doc’s work. The post-doc’s research had been funded by a C-DEBI fellowship. The student would like to take action against this ethical misconduct. However, she does not want to be identified to anyone else in the C-DEBI community, or her advisor. So, the student looks on the C-DEBI website, and finds the number for the USC hotline. She calls it, explains her evidence to them, and then they contact the C-DEBI Ethics Panel naming the advisor, but giving no information about the person who supplied the information. The C-DEBI Ethics Panel discusses the complaint, and deems it worthy of further discussion with the Executive Committee. Together, the two committees agree that further clarification on the ethical complaint is necessary, so they contact the USC Office of Compliance to get further information from the student.