Handbook for Research
Section V: Research Training and Supervision
Research training is still largely an apprenticeship system where much of the research ethic and technical expertise is transmitted by example. However, as part of the initial orientation of a new trainee, explicit attention by a senior investigator should be given to conveying the research group's expectations and the institutional guidelines (including Sections III-IV of this Handbook). New trainees should be told, early on, about the ethos of the laboratory or clinical research group with respect to the sharing of reagents and tasks, and how such publication issues as who writes and authors papers are decided upon. With specific respect to clinical research, trainees need explicit instruction in designing protocols, selecting defined patient populations, conforming to the guidelines for informed consent, and analyzing the data both methodologically and statistically.
A central part of research training is to master techniques and use them with appropriate controls and skepticism, and to analyze data rigorously with special attention to any observation that is in discord with the starting hypothesis. Trainees should be encouraged to openly discuss their work both with the mentor, and other members of the group since the reaction and criticism of colleagues teaches them to defend their data and recognize preconceived ideas that distort interpretation. In order to acquire reporting skills, trainees must also be given the opportunity for regular presentation of their results at formal seminars.
Trainees are entitled to know in advance if their results are to be included in a paper or conference report and to express their views on the selection and presentation of their findings. The trainee who makes a significant contribution to a senior scientist's review article should be given credit and a fair share of any honorarium.
During the training period, instruction should be given, at least by example, in the handling of conflicts of interest. Such conflicts as well as issues of confidentiality arising with manuscripts or grants reviewed by the mentor, can be used to sensitize trainees to complex ethical problems.
Trainees should not be given access to such confidential material as grant applications but may assist with a manuscript review when permitted by journal policy. The contribution should be attributed to the trainee who should be informed of the acknowledgement. Issues concerning sharing of data and materials often involve thorny dilemmas which need to be discussed in the laboratory. Additionally, trainees can benefit from learning how to negotiate and maintain collaborations and from being made aware of the ethical issues and problems associated with such arrangements.