Different mentors establish different research environments. Some laboratories
are highly competitive; others emphasize cooperation. Some mentors are
intimately involved in all aspects of the projects they supervise; others
delegate authority. Similarly, different researchers like to work in
different environments. Some enjoy independence; others like to have
close working relationships with colleagues. Some thrive in competitive
environments; others prefer cooperative working relationships. Although
there is no single formula for a “good” research environment,
there are some fundamentals that mentors and trainees should keep in
treatment. Research ability is not tied to race, gender,
ethnicity, or sexual orientation. These factors have no bearing on one’s
success as a researcher. Therefore, research environments should not
put someone at a disadvantage based on who they are. If competition
is encouraged in a way that puts any distinguishable group at a significant
disadvantage, it is not acceptable. All students should be subject to
the same level of supervision and scrutiny. Aside from legal obligations
to avoid discrimination in the workplace, researchers have a professional
obligation to work to assure equal access to their profession, particularly
if their work is publicly supported.
practice. Researchers should maintain research environments
that respect accepted practices for the responsible conduct of research.
Trainees learn by example as well as formal training. They assume, not
unreasonably, that the practices they observe are appropriate practices.
Mentors therefore have an obligation to maintain research environments
that set appropriate examples. They should not themselves make unreasonable
authorship demands, fail to honor agreements made with trainees, inappropriately
cut corners in research, or engage in other practices that run counter
to accepted practices for the responsible conduct of research.
in the responsible conduct of research. Beginning in
1989 and in line with recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine
(IOM, 1989), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) required recipients
of National Research Service Institutional Training Program awards (training
grants) to offer instruction in the responsible conduct of research
(RCR). The National Science Foundation (NSF) has a similar requirement
for recipients of its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship
(IGERT) Program awards. Later reports, notably by the 1995 Commission
on Research Integrity, called for broadening this requirement to all
PHS-funded research, but such a requirement has not been implemented.
Nonetheless, there is widespread agreement that RCR training should
be integral to the research environment, with heavy emphasis given to
the role the mentor plays in providing this training.