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Case Study: Apparent conflicts and priorities

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ORI Introduction to RCR: Chapter 10. Peer Review    

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Dr. Sung L. is struggling with the decision whether to agree to review the work of an advanced graduate student at another university for publication in the major journal in his field. He is familiar with the student's work and attended a session several months ago at which she presented a brief report on her work. It clearly overlaps with his research in a number of ways, which is one reason he has been asked to serve as a reviewer.
Dr. L. knows he is qualified to do the review and is confident he can provide an objective, constructive judgment of the students's work. However, since his students are working on similar problems, he is concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest. In addition, he is not sure he wants to learn more about the work in question until he publishes his own work, to avoid later charges that he unfairly used some of the student’s ideas. Finally, there is the matter of yet another lost weekend doing the review, when his department chair has already told him to cut down on unpaid professional service.
  • Should Dr. L. agree to do the review?
  • If he is uncertain about his responsibilities, where can he get advice?
  • Would the situation be different if he had been asked to review the student’s work for an
  • appointment or promotion decision?