Monthly Archives: February 2019

Recording devices inside VT bathrooms: a scary thing.

Today I received an email from VT Police about two recovered video recording devices found at Virginia Tech’s public bathrooms. It was scary to think that I could have used one of those bathrooms, without knowing that there was a recording device in there. This news made me wonder how often these situations happen at higher education institutions around the US. So, I did a quick search on the internet to see what I could find.

Some of my findings were that there are many cases, I choose to read only the cases that were in the first four pages of the search engine. I found 10 cases at these universities: West Chester University in Pennsylvania, UC Berkeley in California, University of Wisconsin in Waukesha Wisconsin, Wayne State University in Detroit, University of Kentucky, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Delaware, Capital University in Ohio, and the University of North Florida.

In all these cases, the suspects arrested for allegedly putting the devices and recording were students that were registered at those universities or former students. These cases occurred in both women’s and men’s bathroom. However, most cases (8) occurred in women’s bathrooms. These unfortunate and criminal events occurred in the recent period between 2014 and 2018. I argue that these are only the cases that are covered by the news, and that we are underestimating the magnitude of the problem because many other cases never go public. In conclusion, students must be vigilant. Have you heard before of any other case of recording devices found in bathrooms at Virginia Tech?

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An overview of misconduct cases at the Office of Research Integrity (ORI)

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) supervises research integrity activities on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The government invests billions of dollars in health research and development every year, that is why the supervision of all these projects is so important.

One of the purposes of the ORI is the oversight of research misconduct inquiries and investigations, and propose the appropriate administrative actions.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, title 42 Public Health, Part 93.103, research misconduct is the “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.”

On the website of ORI, we can find a summary, per year, of all the misconduct cases that this institution investigates. I decided to check all the cases for 2018 to explore similarities and differences among cases. I accessed the website and opened each case to learn more about the specific cause, professional stage of the researcher, the institution involved, and administrative action taken by the ORI, for a general understanding of the misconduct phenomenon.

After an overview of misconduct cases, I found that the researchers involved belonged to diverse research fields and professional stages, from Ph.D. students to Professors, and at the time of the misconduct were working in prestigious research institutions. For example, some researchers worked at the NIH or at renowned medical centers and universities. This makes me wonder whether these research institutions add too much pressure to their scientists to succeed as research agencies. I know the former reason is no justification to commit misconduct, but misconduct may be a simple expression of the broken system requesting high production rates from the scientific community. Or else is it simply a lack of professional ethics on the part of researchers?

Regarding the period the administrative sanctions will remain in force, I saw a range of 1 to 10 years of penalization. I believe that the magnitude of the misconduct is associated with the period of sanctions implemented. Nevertheless, the researcher’s reputation is damage independently to the period of sanction. I wonder if early students or postdocs, just starting their scientific careers, are less or more at risk of committing misconduct? For example, established professors may be less prone to misconduct considering the years of experience and the risk to lose their jobs and ruin their reputation -i.e., they have more to lose.

I found a case in which an Eminent Professor was discovered submitting an NIH grant application that included plagiarized text. This suggests that research agencies may be using software to detect plagiarized text. Faculty should be aware of automated detection of plagiarism considering some scientists use text from their previous publications. Thus, it is crucial to reduce plagiarism and employ proper citations and references to reduce risks of misconduct accusations in grant proposals. Sometimes we do not realize the consequences of a simple mistake to save some seconds of work.

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Universities’ Mission Statements

For this assignment, my objective was to compare the mission statements of institutions of higher education to establish differences and similarities. I chose two universities located in the United States, the University of Minnesota, a state grant-land university, located in the state of Minnesota, and Syracuse University, a private university in Upstate New York.

As I expected, both universities have an emphasis in research and discovery. I found some of the same patterns explained in the Cortes-Sanchez’s article “What do universities want to be? A content analysis of mission and vision statements worldwide.” Syracuse University focuses on the student’s teaching process and success; this private university highlights their strategy to achieve this success, including global thinking, experiential learning, interdisciplinary scholarship, creativity, and entrepreneurial endeavor.

The University of Minnesota uses the term “community” three times in their mission statement and considers service and extension. One of the university’s mission is outreach and public service by making knowledge and resources accessible to the citizens and by working with them in the field to solve local problems.

Three aspects of this assessment caught my attention. First, both universities include in their mission an interest to build a diverse and creative community. Second, only the University of Minnesota aims to prepare their students for active roles in a multiracial and multicultural world. Finally, Syracuse University has a strong pride in its “location and history as a place of access, engagement, innovation, and impact.” Overall, the land-grant and private universities explored showed dissimilarities in their policies and philosophy, which may be transferred to their alumni.

Sources:

https://www.syracuse.edu/about/vision-mission/

http://regents.umn.edu/sites/regents.umn.edu/files/policies/Mission_Statement.pdf

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/12/20/what-do-universities-want-to-be-a-content-analysis-of-mission-and-vision-statements-worldwide/

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