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Shared Interest/Responsibility - Case F3

Dr. Martha Shelby, a faculty member at Harrington University School of Medicine, was asked by the editor of a journal specializing in pediatrics research to review a paper on a new drug treatment for childhood leukemia. The paper was submitted by Dr. Stewart Crain, a pediatric oncologist at Cruxton Medical Center and a former colleague of hers when both were on faculty at Chandler Medical School.

In reviewing the manuscript, Dr. Shelby was struck by certain language in the introductory section that had a very familiar, yet not immediately recognizable, ring to it. After finishing the paper, which she found reasonably well prepared, she continued to experience a nagging feeling over the language that seemed to echo something she had read before.

Upon further contemplation, Dr. Shelby recollected a thesis prepared several years ago by an M.D./Ph.D. student at Chandler who worked under Dr. Crain's tutelage. She had reviewed the paper as a member of the thesis committee. By calling the medical library, Dr. Shelby was able to obtain a copy of the thesis and realized that Dr. Crain' s introduction incorporated nearly word-for-word the history of therapeutic advances in leukemia described by the student. She considered calling Dr. Crain about the problem, but dreaded the idea of a direct confrontation. She was then on the verge of calling Dr. William Sachs, the head of the oncology department at Cruxton, when she realized that Dr. Sachs was a coauthor on the paper. She feared that Dr. Sachs might not take her complaint to heart.

Questions:

  1. What are Dr. Shelby's obligations as a reviewer in this situation?
  2. Given the various individuals and institutions that might have an interest in this incident, to whom might Dr. Shelby report the apparent plagiarism? Is there any institution to which, or person to whom, she has an obligation to report this finding?
  3. Assume Dr. Shelby relays her concerns to Dr. Sachs. What responsibilities does Dr. Sachs have as coauthor on the paper and as Dr. Crain' s boss, once he becomes aware of Dr. Shelby's concerns?
  4. Assume Dr. Sachs is unresponsive. What should Dr. Shelby do next?
  5. If made aware of the allegation, what are the responsibilities of
    1. the pediatrics research journal editor ,
    2. Cruxton Medical Center,
    3. Harrington University School of Medicine, and
    4. Chandler Medical School,
    in responding to the possibility of plagiarism?
  6. Assume that the former M.D./Ph.D. student at Chandler Medical School discovered the plagiarism, not Dr. Shelby. As the original author of the plagiarized material, would the appropriate response for the former student be any different?
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