Ethics Issues in Health Areas vs. Design Areas

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Going through the case summaries on ORI scholarly integrity website, we can see all the cases in 2016 is related to health and human research field.

Taking the first case of this year as example, Walker, Kenneth, a former postdoctoral fellow, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh, falsified data that were included in “two publications, one submitted manuscript, and two grant applications submitted to NIDDK, NIH.” “Dr. Walker has entered into a Voluntary Settlement Agreement and has voluntarily agreed to have his research supervised for a period of three years, exclude himself from serving in any advisory capacity to PHS, and retract or correct of the PLoS 2013 and AJPRP 2015 publications.” Another agreement that surprises me is that “any institution employing him shall submit, in conjunction with each application for PHS funds, or report, manuscript, or abstract involving PHS-supported research in which Respondent is involved, a certification to ORI that the data provided by Respondent are based on actual experiments or are otherwise legitimately derived and that the data, procedures, and methodology are accurately reported in the application, report, manuscript, or abstract.” This will probably affect his current work or his chance to get a new job since any institution employing him will be affected by his case. In my opinion, this agreement is the most powerful punishment for him.

As a brief summary to all the cases in 2016, most cases reported by ORI are related to falsifying and/or fabricating data, and the results of investigation are similar that the person involving has entered into a Voluntary Settlement Agreement including having his or her research supervised for 3-5 years, retracting or correcting the publications, affecting the grant application and the institution employing him or her.

Thinking from my own major, landscape architecture, I feel this investigation process can also be used to monitor the research integrity of design majors, including architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, industry design and so on. For the researches in design major, some people could also have problem falsifying and/or fabricating data, so similar agreements can also be powerful to punish those who have ethics issues in design major.

Other than research integrity, people working in design fields, especially industry fields, might have some problem with the copyrights of the design. Unfortunately, design is a process of solving problems by creative solutions, those solutions could be similar when you have similar problems, at the same time, even the shape or pattern of the design can hardly be judged as imitating or recreating. These two deep reasons related to the root of the design determine that it is hard to deal with the ethics issues in design industry and protect the copyright of the existing design.

Effective investigating process or official offices have not been formed in this area. I hardly heard that some design companies or designers get investigations or punishments for imitating others’ design. That is a pity, I think we still have a long way to go to deal with the ethics issues in design areas, either the research integrity or design integrity.

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