American Society of Civil Engineers


Ethical Issues in Multiple-Authored and Mentor-Supervised Publications


by Marianne M. Jennings, (Professor, Legal and Ethical Studies, Dept. of Management, Arizona State Univ., Main Campus, P.O. Box 874006, Tempe, AZ 85287. E-mail: marianne.jennings@asu.edu) and Islam H. El-adaway, (corresponding author), (Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering/Building Construction Science, Mississippi State Univ., 501 Hardy Rd., 235C Walker Engineering Building, P.O. Box 9546, Mississippi State, MS 39762. E-mail: eladaway@cee.msstate.edu; eladaway@caad.msstate.edu)

Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, Vol. 138, No. 1, January 2012, pp. 37-47, (doi:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)EI.1943-5541.0000087)

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: This paper explores the ethical issues related to publication, authorship, and mentoring with the goal of better defining coauthorship standards and encouraging research ethics discussion and education within the academic civil engineering research community. Graduate students, junior and tenured faculty, technicians, administrators, and field practitioners in the civil engineering research community need to address the evolving ethical issues in multiple-authored and mentor-supervised publications. By using a five-step interrelated research methodology, the authors examine the current factors affecting the academic research environment and describe some of the unspoken but ethically questionable practices in the academic community. Most tangible rewards are on the basis of a faculty member’s or researcher’s publication record, and the increasing pressure to produce publications earlier and more often in the academic’s career exacerbate the problem of a lack of clarity in ethical standards for multiauthored publications. The timing and frequency standards associated with publications for tenure, promotion, and continuing research funding opportunities result in academics’ maximization of the number of research efforts taken to publication, with the number of authors per scientific publication steadily increasing. Further, as the number of authors has increased, the level of contribution of each coauthor to the research project and publication decreases. Data show that it is impossible to detect or assume equal-effort contributions by coauthors or their knowledge-base about the project design, findings, or implications. This paper proposes a threefold ethical framework for evaluating and analyzing the ethical norms for authorship status. It is the hoped that this thought-paper stirs the waters of this important issue to maintain the solidarity and integrity of engineering research activities and publications.


ASCE Subject Headings:
Ethics
Engineering education
Publications
Research

Author Keywords:
Ethics
Education
Integrity
Authorship
Mentoring
Publications
Research
Research misconduct
Responsible conduct of research
Scientific integrity