Failure to Attribute Credit - Case B8

Hal Strock was finishing the last year of his immunology postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Professor Ed Schwartz. Over time, he had evolved from a veritable apprentice into a productive contributor to the progress of the laboratory.

One day, Hal was asked to give a presentation of his work at a departmental seminar. When offered an opportunity to rehearse, Hal indicated that he believed that he was fully prepared. During the seminar, Hal reviewed the main research progress of Professor Schwartz's laboratory , including his own contributions. The work was enthusiastically received by those outside Hal's lab and he fielded the questions well. However, Hal's co-investigators and other lab members, who were all in attendance, were strangely quiet afterwards.

Over the course of the following week, Hal experienced aloofness from Professor Schwartz and hostility from other members of the laboratory, especially when he asked them about his performance at the presentation. Hal decided to ask Professor Schwartz what was wrong. Professor Schwartz said, "Hal, you failed to delineate your limited contribution to the material in your presentation and you did not give full credit to those in this laboratory and to others that did most of the work. Not only have you upset your colleagues, some might say your negligence constitutes plagiarism. Your colleagues take as much pride as you do in their professional accomplishments and have as much need for recognition. You will have a hard time regaining their trust."

Chastened, Hal made an effort to apologize to all of his colleagues.


  1. What are the principles underlying the responsible reporting of research findings?
  2. Recognition occurs in many forms. How would you go about ensuring that the work of involved professional colleagues is properly identified in an oral presentation, in an abstract, in a paper? How do you identify your own contributions versus those of your supervisor, colleagues, and predecessors?
  3. Imagine yourself to be a colleague of Hal's in the first year of your fellowship. You contributed substantially to the work he presented, and Hal failed to give you appropriate attribution. If Hal asked for your opinion on his performance, how would you respond?
  4. In this instance, what were Professor Schwartz's responsibilities, if any, in preparing Hal for his presentation?


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