ORI’s “The Lab” – Avoiding Research Misconduct

Each university that uses funds from the Public Health Services,  must provide training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).   The Lab is a new interactive movie developed by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI), that allows viewers to experience an ethical challenge involving research as one of four characters.  Set in an active lab with a tier of graduate students,  post docs, PIs and a research integrity officer (RIO), the story line follows each character as a case of data-image falsification is discovered and followed through by steering the chosen character through a series of choices and outcomes. 

The case involves manipulation of Western Blots, which are among the data-images most frequently falsified.  Each stakeholder’s motives, choices and outcomes are well developed  and realistic with a sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of the academic lab environment.  For example, the graduate student’s conversations with her P.I., and peers show how much courage it takes to point out a flaw in the system.

The various pressures on each character create a sense of what it is like to make ethical choices in a competitive environment,  and pulls no punches about the ramifications of speaking up, or keeping silent.   Relationships of PIs, RIOs, post-docs and graduate students are presented believably, as are the pressures that can come with different roles in a lab.  The production values have been kept very high, and  this interactive movie should be an important part of research ethics resources for academic labs.

This research ethics case study  is available as a download in the public domain, at no cost to the user,  from the Office of Research Integrity.

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