On Being a Scientist: A Guide to the Responsible Conduct of Research Third Edition (2009).

Author:Caines, Vaughan
Position:Book review

On Being a Scientist: A Guide to the Responsible Conduct of Research Third Edition (2009) National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, The National Academies Press, 63 pp.

On Being a Scientist is a well-written resource for understanding the principles of responsible research. This is an excellent guide, not only for seasoned scientists and research administrators, but also for newcomers to the field of science and research administration.

This seminal work details the role of research administrators and, perhaps not intentionally, their symbiotic relationship with scientists. It also provides scientists with a blueprint to follow as they develop their own approach to ethics in this age of regulation. Scientists know that, for their profession to survive, it is necessary to foster relationships built on trust, fellowship, and mutual interest.

This knowledge is also understood by research administrators, who are aware of the need to advance and develop their own code of ethical conduct, especially in their leadership role as overseers of publicly and privately funded research. In addition, in support of the researchers and institutions they serve, they are often called upon to provide advice and continuing education in ethics. This book aids in that process.

Prefacing the report is the observation that many beginning researchers, while well-versed in their own discipline, lack sufficient knowledge of the ethical standards of scientific research. Due to the pace and competitive nature of scientific research--coupled with the numerous guidelines mandated by various regulatory agencies--any scientist could become overwhelmed or confused. Research administrators can play a key role in the education of researchers in these important and complex areas, thus forging a bond of trust and familiarity.

In its Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research and Advising and Mentoring, the report details the three main ethical obligations of a researcher: 1) to honor the trust of peers by producing work that is scientifically valid and reliable; 2) to produce quality work that is properly vetted; and 3) to serve the public by creating information that may be used to shape public policy.

The role, value, and importance of an advisor or mentor are explained, and readers are invited to consider research administrators as part of a multi-faceted mentoring process. An integral cog in...

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