Week 10 – Disciplinary Codes

This week’s readings are on different Code of Conducts. Most professionals in my discipline follow the American Dietetic Association Code of Ethics. I was unaware that such a code existed but it makes sense because many of these professionals are registered dietitians who work in health and medical fields. The Code is divided into sections: responsibilities to the public, to clients, to the profession, and to colleagues. Then it goes into a a huge list about ethics cases and hearings. This is much longer than our Graduate Honor Code. Almost everything is mentioned, including the confidentiality rights of people who break the conduct. One thing that I find surprising is that under “Responsibilities to the Profession,” the first bullet is “The dietetics practitioner practices dietetics based on evidence-based principles and current information.” New studies are always coming out in the field of nutrition so it must be difficult for certain people to keep up with all of the new information. I wonder if there is a routine exam that dietetics have to take to be re-certified. If I could make any changes, I would condense the code. It seems like some points can be combined to make the whole document look easier to read and much more brief.

Week 9 – Copyright Issues

I am very familiar with copying and plagiarism but the rules around copyright issues have always confounded me. For example, Youtube mutes videos that use music without permission but still some videos that use the same songs are not muted. Not sure if these videos slip under the radar or if there are criteria for music rules. The readings for this week has broadened my knowledge of copyright issues. I understand that many others, even professionals, are also confused with copyrighting laws. I am all for a free, open access web. I think all materials that can expand our knowledge should be free. I know this is vague, but sometimes I get frustrated that academic journal articles are very costly even though the authors of the papers have to pay a publishing cost. What if an individual, perhaps someone with an advanced degree but does not have a job in an academic setting, wants to keep up with ongoing research in his/her field?

I agree that Kinko’s violated copyright rules because they took publisher’s materials and charged students for their own gain. If we had a free, open access web, businesses would not be able to profit from someone else’s work.

We had to read many articles in one of the classes that I took last year. My professor would give us the citation for the article but we were required to find the article through VT Summons and then download it ourselves. I’m not sure what her reason for this was but she did mention something about copyright rules. To me, copyright rules are still floating in a gray area. What if I use a video that someone else made in my academic presentations and cited the video correctly? Would that still count as a copyright infringement? I hope these issues do not arise but I worry that they will.

Week 8 – Final Project Description

This is my first year of being a graduate teaching assistant. So far, I have noticed that undergraduate students do not have a firm grasp on what integrity and plagiarism mean. Through grading assignments, I have noticed that students have difficulty citing sources. For example, in a lab report, students were to provide sources for each piece of information that they had to look up. Some students excelled while others simply failed to correctly cite in the required format. It is important that these students learn to cite, as many of them have plans to continue their education. I am afraid that they will face more severe consequences in the future so it is better to prepare them now.

Since I am a first time TA, I want to know if other TAs or instructors have noticed that undergraduates are struggling to cite sources correctly. For my project, I propose holding brief interviews with various TAs and instructors. I am hoping to conduct interviews with professors, advanced instructors, a seasoned GTA, and a first-time GTA. Throughout these interviews, I will ask questions such as what type of class do they teach, how long they have been teaching, if they address plagiarism in their class, how common do they see students incorrectly cite, and if they have any solutions. After I conduct the interviews, I can identify major themes to see what kind of trends were common. My goal is to see how common this problem is throughout the university and gather all solutions to better address this issue.

I believe that my project is related to academic integrity at the graduate level because as GTAs, we have a large influence on how certain assignments and classes are created. If many GTAs are seeing that correct citations are an issue, we can bring this up with our professors and perhaps they can add a heavier grade penalty for incorrect citations or even have a class on citations. The aim of having stricter rules on citations is to better prepare these undergraduates for their future in professional or graduate school.

Week 7 – Authorship

I have always been curious about authorship, as it is something that hasn’t been touched on in my other classes. At first, I thought authors on a journal article were ranked in order of “importance.” For example, I always thought that the first author was the one who funded or proposed the study. Then came those who designed the project and collected data, and then those who actually wrote the paper. Now that I look back on my previous self, I noticed that this may seem a little naive of me. Now I notice that authorship is so much more complicated than I expected. I did not realize that different journals have different criteria for listing authors. Since I plan to publish a manuscript, I will have to be very careful to list all authors so I do not plagiarize.

We briefly touched one authorship in one of my seminars. My professor brought up a point that I had not even thought of before. What if you collected large scale data for your own project and someone else took that data to use in their own project without telling you? Then when their paper is published, you are listed as one of the authors. I thought, wow this is great, it’s basically like they are giving you credit, for free. Then my professor said that what if you do not want to be involved with this study at all? What if the results totally go against how you would have interpreted the data?Would this be an issue? I thought this was an interesting point since most times, we often hear about other people stealing data and not giving credit, instead of the other way around. I would like to know what you all think about this issue.

Week 6 – Citations

This week’s topic follows last week’s topic pretty well. Every field has their own preferred type of citation and it is important to know which are common in your respective field. For nutrition, the most common citation styles are the American Psychological Association (APA) and Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). I have noticed that undergraduate students either can’t tell the difference between the two, or are ignoring the differences. I would have to say that both of these styles look different. For example, here are citations for the same article, but in different styles:

APA:

Hamilton G.S, Naugthon M.T, (2013) Impact of obstructive sleep apnoea on diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Medical Journal of Australia. 199. 27-30.

JAMA:

Hamilton GS, Naugthon MT. Impact of obstructive sleep apnoea on diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Med J Aust. 2013;199:27-30.

It can be easy to get some aspects confused, especially since authors are listed first in each style. However, upon closer inspection, the publication year is written in different locations and in APA, the journal title should be written out. Since there are hundreds of citation methods, it is important to know which type is required in the journal that you want to publish in.

Week 5 – The VT Graduate Honor System, Part II

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE CITE YOUR SOURCES EVERYONE!

This past week, I had the honor of grading my first lab reports. I was really looking forward to it as I like giving students feedback on their work. But once I started reading a couple of reports, I realized that these students did not know how to properly cite sources. I was surprised. This is a 3000 level course and I thought that by this point, students would already know how to cite. But since this is a science lab, I came to the conclusion that many students had the belief that science courses would involve minimal writing. I was frustrated while grading the reports and I took off points for incorrect citations and incorrect use of in-text citations (since the students were required to use APA format). Being a TA has really opened my eyes to some issues that students struggle with, but they might not realize that their struggles are a “big deal.” As a TA, I want to help my students understand the importance of citations and how failure to cite is something that they will never get away with. Since I TA in a science class, many of these students will continue with their education. If they do not know how to properly cite sources by the time they get to graduate/professional school, they will face larger consequences. My advice to fellow TAs is to help your students with citations. Point out incorrect citations and write out instructions on how to properly cite. Invite them to your office hours so you can show them citation tips.

Moving on to the readings and videos.

“The Lab” is similar to a movie that I watched in my Senior Seminar class. Both are about misconducts that occurred in a research lab and followed the PI, supervisor, and graduate students throughout the prosecution process. At the end of both “The Lab” and the movie that I watched in class, students were accused and the PI and lab supervisor were fired. It really is devastating to see graduate students lose everything they have worked for, especially if they are young and are earning degrees to start their careers. To me, being unethical in a research or academic setting is just too much of a risk. It is always better and safer to put forth quality work, which might not launch you into the research spotlight, than to risk your whole career by falsifying information so that you have “groundbreaking” work.

Week 4 – VT Graduate Honors System, Part 1

Having a constitution is necessary in a fair judicial system. Much like the Constitution of the United States, the Graduate Honor System Constitution goes into detail about all processes needed so that the accused student, and everyone else who is involved, can receive a fair trial. The constitution must be accessible and available to everyone so that transparency is ensured.

I like that Virginia Tech has such an extensive honor code system that has been refined many times. This shows that the university puts forth much effort to maintaining the integrity of its academics and research. When it comes to reporting students for the honor code violation, I think that professors and faculty report the majority of cases. In order to maintain academic integrity, I think that students must also be proactive about reporting their peers if necessary.

Overall, having such an extensive and somewhat complex honor system shows students that the university takes violations very seriously. If anything, the honor code can always be strengthened but the established rules should never be relaxed.

Week 3 – Defining Ethics and Integrity

For this week, I read the Ethics in Health Research article. This article was written by the National Institute of Health (NIH), which is a large government agency that conducts research and is also responsible for distributing research funds to universities and other research organizations. Ethics is an important topic for this agency since the NIH has many roles related to research.

In regarding the history of ethics and scientific conduct, I would say that the norms and principles of ethics were established long ago. Perhaps they were taken from religious texts that deemed how humans should behave towards one another. Over time, these principles translated into society and eventually into the research realm.

So far, in my experience as a graduate student, ethics has been mentioned in almost every one of my classes. Since most of my classes are on research methods and cover many topics of nutrition research, ethics is always brought up. In these classes, we often talk about important unethical health research cases. For example, one of the most fraudulent papers that we discuss is the infamous “vaccines cause autism” case. In this study, the author, Andrew Wakefield, was not transparent with his conflicts of interests and preformed unnecessary and invasive medical procedures on the participants. After the paper was published, other researchers could not reproduce the findings, which then caused many controversies. This case was a critical moment in research ethics because the paper was published in a highly regarded medical journal. In addition, this paper also caused the vaccine scare that is still evident today. Regarding this case, unethical behavior can have consequences outside the science world and can alter perceptions within the general public.

Week Two – The Purpose of the Research University

I enjoyed the videos and readings this week because they were centered on the history of higher education and more specifically the aspects that relate to Virginia Tech; and one of my hobbies is learning about history. The potential for change was also highlighted in the video on reinventing universities in the 21st century. I feel that I have a full grasp on the past, present, and future of R&D universities.

Change is a prevalent theme among universities and I am always delighted that I am on a campus that is open to change. I hope that we can embrace some of the tactics mentioned in the Reinventing Our Universities in the 21st Century video. However, one thing that was mentioned in the video that I don’t agree on is relaxing course cirriculums for undergraduate students. The video mentioned how students who want to be future nurses would not need to take organic chemistry. I agree fully agree on this, but I am hoping that when people hear this statement, they do not think that these same pre-nursing students would then be exempt from history/philosophy/and other humanities courses as I think they are relevant in the society and life outside of work.

As a land grant university, Virginia Tech should put more emphasis on its cooperative extension program. As an undergraduate student, I was not aware of this even though community extension is one of the three main purposes of land grant universities. Many of my friends and peers were also unaware of the extension program but were familiar with the university for education (obviously) and research. Even though I am a graduate student now and work with cooperative extension, I feel like there should be more ways for undergraduate students to become involved with the community. This would further enrich Virginia Tech’s status as a land grant university and in turn, help the members of the New River Valley communities and beyond.

 

Week 1 – Introductions

Hello everyone!

My name is Susan and I am a Masters student in the department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise. My concentration is in community and behavioral nutrition and my research is on food waste behaviors among youth and adolescents. Through my projects, I have worked with the Virginia Cooperative Extension (specifically the 4-H program) and other land grant universities. Prior to my graduate work, I was an undergraduate student here at Virginia Tech and I graduated in 2016 with a BS degree in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise and a minor in Geography. In addition, I am also a Blacksburg native. I have lived here my whole life. If you have any questions about Blacksburg or Virginia Tech, please let me know!

The VT Principles of Community is something that I am familiar with since I was an undergraduate student here. These principles are in place to promote a more diverse campus. This diversity not only includes one’s racial identity, but also includes diversity in all other categories of how one might identify his or herself. To stress, every person at Virginia Tech contributes to the Virginia Tech community because they can express their own unique cultures, ideas, and backgrounds. In addition, these principles are unlike laws or facts, they are the standards of how people should behave in society, respectful and non-discriminatory towards others.

One of the most intriguing and important aspects of the Principles of Community is respect. I see that mutual respect is mentioned in three out of the five principles. Sometimes, as humans, we acknowledge that we should be non-discriminatory towards each other but we fail to have a mutual respect people of each other cultures and backgrounds just because our thoughts and beliefs might not align with theirs. I think it is important to consider everyone’s thoughts about an idea. Especially in complex situations or problems, whether on campus or in society in general, listening to everyone’s thoughts can give us perspectives from every angle. Appropriate decisions should be made after everyone’s thoughts are expressed.

The VT Principles should also extend beyond the campus. Within my field of nutrition, I feels as if many people share the same thoughts about a topic. For example, in U.S. nutrition policy, most nutritionists will advocate for more initiatives for healthy food among children. Of course, no one is ever going to say “let’s not offer healthy food to children,” but most people might be “against” the method of implementation of the initiatives. It is important to listen to understand their perspective and work together to create a better food environment. With some mutual respect in the world of nutrition policy, I believe certain policies could be implemented faster.

The principles are the backbone of how VT students and faculty should behave towards one another. These principles increase the integrity of our university because it is expected that everyone should have good morals. Having such principles also increases the university’s transparency, if someone is behaving discriminatory towards another, there are absolutely no excuses that can back the unaccepted behavior.