I know that most [people], including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives. -- Leo Tolstoy
Brad discussed this curious phenomenon with his wife, Ramona. Anyone who has ever been a graduate student or post-doc in almost any research lab would not be surprised at how much time students, spouses, partners, and friends spend analyzing the nervous tics, annoying habits, and questionable behavior of their supervisors. Brad’s friend, Janet, had reported that her first graduate research supervisor Sam, a charming Richard Dreyfuss look-alike, had gathered his three-member research team during their first study on children’s memory. Janet was project manager and coordinated the data collection among the four doctoral and two undergraduate students on the project. It was the mid-phase of data collection when Sam announced to Janet, “If we change the interview protocol to include a different set of instructions to the children, I think we’ll get our hypothesized results.” Janet asked Sam if a revised IRB protocol should be submitted for review and approval. “It’s such a small change; it doesn’t matter,” was Sam’s reply. They changed the instructions and they got the hypothesized results. For years the students referred to Sam as “most likely to teach Psych 601, Research Ethics: A Flexible Approach.”
flexibility was matched by a generosity toward his students.
Janet was surprised when, after that first research study
on children’s memory, the manuscript was completed for submission,
and her name appeared as a co-author. Janet assumed that her
contribution of data collection had been rewarded sufficiently
by her assistantship stipend. It was not a generous stipend
or even a stipend that allowed her to live without a second
job, but there had been no mention of her role as an author.
Sam simply handed Janet a copy of the completed manuscript,
“for your comments if you have any,” one day, and Janet soon
had her first publication as a fourth co-author in a second-tier
publication. She later learned that other graduate students
had different experiences. These colleagues reported involvement
in the various stages of research design, data collection,
analysis, writing, and publication decisions. Janet’s journey
to published researcher had been quite uncomplicated and painless.