From: ILPI Support <info**At_Symbol_Here**>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Follow-up on ACS national awards and Fellows program RE: [DCHAS-L] Just published
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2015 12:28:39 -0500
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
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On Dec 17, 2015, at 10:27 AM, Jim Kaufman <jim**At_Symbol_Here**LABSAFETYINSTITUTE.ORG> wrote:

Sounds like a rather dim view of humanity.
I guess I have greater trust and respect for the goodness of 99.9% of humanity (including EHS and faculty and administrators and small business owners too <grin>).

That's because you are on the good side of The Force.  I used to be a professor. I have seen the Dark Side and it is strong.  And you would not believe just how true my comments ring.

Two quick non-safety examples from my assistant professor days (and realize what that means with respect to speaking one's mind).

1. I was on a PhD thesis committee final defense (along with my colleagues who would decide my tenure fate within the next year or two) and wanted to warm the student up with an easy softball question.  So I asked him to define one of the words in the title of his thesis work.    He couldn't do it.   I took a good 20 or 30 minutes with prompting from his advisor to explain it.   The entire committee voted to pass him and passed the card to me for my signature.    I've got a lot of integrity - I take that really seriously.  I return the money when someone gives me too much change.  Without describing how I voted, I ask how many of you in that position would dare vote no.

2. On another committee I was an outside examiner for the a student whose advisor was head of the department  and dean (and is now chancellor at another institution).  The student's thesis project was electronic band study calculations of an element.   My softball questions got softer and softer until I finally had to ask him how many valence electrons were in the element whose electronic structure he was studying.  Couldn't do it even after we located it on a periodic table.  We failed him, yes.  BUT two weeks later his advisor had him re-defend.  TWO WEEKS.  And he was passed because he parroted back all answers we had explained to him in his first defense.  There is no way he could have suddenly learned what he hadn't in the previous year and a half.   So, again, in my position, how many of you would raise a stink and fuss, blow your future, and take a stand on something you were 101% certain to lose on?

And now a flood gate of more:

I know of professors who have been given manuscripts to review and literally stolen the idea, delayed or rejected the manuscript and then published the work as their own.  I know professors personally who have slept with their graduate students.  A local university here is absolutely stuffed with administrative make-work jobs with made-up titles because of the tentacles of the state political machine.  I've seen students plagiarize and then claim that they didn't realize copying verbatim without footnotes or references was plagiarism.

One year, our P-chem professor received several dozen computer homework assignments with the same date and time stamp, the overwhelming majority of which were from the engineering students enrolled in the course.   The engineering dean told us that its common for students to work together on assignments and this was our fault for not making that more clear.    The next year, the same professor ran a P-chem lab course and received about 12-15 lab reports that were essentially identical - some to the point where only the name was changed.   This was a required course for the major and our department did it exactly right - we failed our majors and some had to stay an extra semester to get their degree.  We also failed the engineering students.   And what did the engineering department do?  They created a paper rubber stamp course that their students could take to substitute for their REQUIRED course they had failed so they could all graduate on time.  We later went to the faculty senate and push through a resolution stating you can't substitute another course for a required course if you are guilty of academic misconduct.

And then, of course, there's the whole allegation of Harran destroying evidence and whatnot.  

It's a cutthroat business.   People cut corners and take the path of least effort/resistance because they have too much else going on.    Politics and agendas warp people's thinking especially when your future or your fiefdom is on the line, and it's not limited to academia, obviously.  It's a sad side of human nature and it's very much real.   If the world really was 99.9% pure and honest folk we wouldn't need whistleblower laws…or most other laws, I'd imagine.

Let's engage our EHS colleagues in a positive and affirmative way.
For example, LSI would like to receive 2015-16 nominations from EHS department for the LSI National Award for the PI with the best lab safety program in his or her research group.  … Jim

Absolutely, this is how we change things.  By always taking the high road, leading by example, and making clear that the safe way is not only the right way, it's the only way.


James A. Kaufman, Ph.D.
The Laboratory Safety Institute (LSI)

A Nonprofit Educational Organization for
Safety in Science, Industry, and Education

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From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**] On Behalf Of ILPI Support
Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2015 7:18 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Follow-up on ACS national awards and Fellows program RE: [DCHAS-L] Just published
In an ideal world, yes.  But I can easily imagine a situation in which the EHS Dept or personal therein perceive pressure from the administration or EHS head to write something that is not, um, entirely accurate.   Likewise, we've also heard at least one incident on the list where an EHS gatekeeper was on a power trip.
Moreover, if a Fellowship was denied because of a bad letter from the EHS dept, it immediately fosters an adverserial relationship between that PI's research group and the EHS dept, one that could easily spread to faculty colleagues.
Finally, this also gets us into the mode where PI's might be tempted to not report safety issues so as to keep a clean paper record.
Maybe if there is some kind of checklist for EHS Departments to use….or maybe require the PI's university to fill out form concerning reportable OSHA, civil, and criminal incidents.
You also have to consider that the rock stars of the research world move around a lot.    There will need to be a mechanism to check with the PI's previous employers say, 10 years back.
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On Dec 16, 2015, at 11:11 PM, Jim Kaufman <jim**At_Symbol_Here**LABSAFETYINSTITUTE.ORG> wrote:

Why not require a letter of support from the institution's EHS Department?

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