Collaboration in Research: Authorship,
Resource Sharing, and Mentoring
Collaboration is a cornerstone of modern science, but it also raises a variety of ethical problems and dilemmas. This chapter explores a variety of issues related to scientific collaboration, including authorship and credit allocation in science; the sharing of data, results, tools, reagents, equipment, and resources; and mentoring responsibilities. The chapter discusses some of the moral dimensions of collaboration, such as trust, accountability, and collegiality. It also considers some reasons why collaborations sometimes fail in research and addresses polices designed to promote collaboration, including policies on authorship, and to promote effective mentoring.
Contemporary research requires a great deal of collaboration among scientists. Although many people still retain the image of the isolated researcher toiling away in the laboratory, modern science is a highly social activity. Archimedes, Galileo, Newton, Harvey, Lavoisier, and Mendel managed to do a great deal of work without collaborating significantly, but today's scientists often must work with many different colleagues. Researchers share data, databases, ideas, equipment, computers, methods, reagents, cell lines, research sites, personnel, and many other technical and human resources. Collaboration takes place within a single institution and among several institutions; it occurs within a particular discipline and among many disciplines; it takes place within the academic realm, within the private sector, or between the academy and industry; and it happens at local, national, and international levels. Collaborators may include graduate students, postdoctoral students, junior and senior researchers, basic scientists, and clinical researchers. Some research projects, such as the Human Genome Project, involve thousands of researchers from dozens of disciplines working in many different countries (Grinnell 1992, Macrina 2000).
Successful collaboration cannot occur without a high level of cooperation, trust, collegiality, fairness, and accountability. Cooperation is essential to collaboration because researchers cannot collaborate if they are not willing to engage in activities that require a great deal of cooperation, such as sharing data and resources or coordinating activities, experiments, and tests. Trust is important in collaboration because researchers need to trust that their collaborators will keep the agreements, will share resources, will disclose important information, will not lie, and so on (Whitbeck 1998). Many different factors can undermine trustworthiness, including selfishness, incompetence, negligence, unfairness, careerism, and conflicts of interest.
Collegiality, one of sociologist Robert Merton's (1973) four norms of science, is important in maintaining a social environment that promotes coop