Professionalism and Ethics as a Researcher in the Atmospheric Sciences.

Professionalism and Ethics as a Researcher in the Atmospheric Sciences

(METEO 591, Fall 2018)

Tuesday (3:05 – 4:20 PM) in 25 Deike Building  

Instructor: Johannes Verlinde (
605 Walker Building, University Park, PA 

Satisfies Scholarship and Research Integrity (SARI) Program Implementation 

To implement the Graduate School SARI Program requirements, the Department of Meteorology created this new course titled Development and Ethics as a Graduate Student in the Atmospheric Sciences (Meteo 591).  The objectives of this one-credit course are several-fold: 

  • document student participation in and completion of the Physical Science Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Course provided by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) via the Office of Research Protections (ORP) SARI Research Portal accessed at
  • provide for a minimum of five hours of discussion on RCR topics relevant to the atmospheric sciences, including, but not limited to, i) acquisition, management, sharing, and ownership of data, ii) publication practices and responsible authorship, iii) conflict of interest and commitment, iv) research misconduct, v) peer review, vi) mentor/trainee responsibilities, and vii) collaborative science. 

Disclaimer: The organization of METEO 591 is based heavily on IBIOS 591 and considerable input from the one of the IBIOS 591 instructors, Dr. John Hanold.  We are grateful to Dr. Hanold for allowing us to use significant portions of the content and organizational structure of IBIOS 591 for our own purposes.  We have approval from the Graduate School to arrange METEO 591 along the lines of IBIOS 591 as long as Dr. Hanold supports our actions, which he does.  

The class was originally adapted for METEO 591 by Dr. Eugene Clothiaux. Much of the original material remains even in the class this semester.

Week / Topic

  1. Introduction — What is this course all about?
  2. Task Group 1 – Research, Ethics and Society (Social Responsibility)
  3. Task Group 2 – Authorship (Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship)
  4. Task Group 3 – Collaborative Research (Working within a Team)
  5. Task Group 4 – Data Management (Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Comments)
  6. Task Group 5 – Mentor and Trainee Responsibilities (Working within the Hierarchy)
  7. Task Group 6 – Peer Review (Duty to our Field)
  8. Task Group 7 –Research Misconduct (Doing Business the Right Way)
  9. Diversity in the Sciences
  10. Wrapping it up

Task groups are organized around clusters of related topics. I have invited a guest speaker for each task group. This speaker will introduce the topic in the first 30 – 40 minutes. Task groups members should prepared to lead a discussion related to their assigned topic areas that incorporates material looked at prior to the meeting and the guest speaker talk. The objective is to develop mature, interesting, and occasionally provocative discussions. Here are some guidelines: 

  • PowerPoint presentations are strongly discouraged
  • Keep canned comments to a minimum
  • Prepare a number of activities to keep discussion going after the initial round of questions. Short case studies are useful to encourage the class to think through an abstract issue in a practical context. Staged debates are good at stimulating discussion. Another good technique is to ask the class a question, poll the results, and then discuss the differences in people’s answers. 
  • Avoid spending too much time discussing facts, laws, and regulations. The primary purpose of this class is not to consider cutting-edge technological developments, nor to learn how to plot a safe course through intellectual property laws and institutional review boards. Scientists are uniquely positioned to influence the development of our culture; this class is designed to encourage junior scientists to consider this role carefully. Scientists often appear more comfortable talking about technical issues than about the social implications of their work, but it is imperative that scientists train themselves to engage their fellow citizens in serious public policy debates. 

A Passing Grade of Satisfactory (R) is Earned by the Following:

  • Participate as a discussion leader in a Task Group
  • Present and participate in the Task Group discussions led by others
  • No unexcused absences; there will be a roll call for each class period in order to document completion of the SARI program discussion-hour requirements
  • Completion of each CITI Physical Science Responsible Conduct of Research course module by the beginning of the relevant class, having earned a grade of 100% on the quiz associated with this module; come to each class with at least one question and one comment on the completed module 

Failing to Earn a Satisfactory Grade of (R) a Student is Assigned an Unsatisfactory Grade (C) and Must Retake the Course the Following Year

(Week 1)  Introduction – What is this course all about? (Responsible Conduct of Research; Integrity in Practice; Integrity in Training; Integrity in Learning; Whistle-blowing) 

  1. Log in: Log in through my institute – pick Penn State, use access account
  2. Select: Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) - Basic
  3. Complete: CITI RCR Course with a grade of 100% (The Penn State requirement is 80% but there is no reason why one cannot work a bit harder to a grade of 100%.) 
  4. Print: Course Completion Report (Turn in to Karen Corl when finished) 
  • The Bottom Line: The primacy of honesty, objectivity and the common good  
  • Be Part of the Solution and Not Part of the Problem: 
    Stand on your own two feet
    Do not be overly reactive
    Have the ability to calm yourself down
    Tolerate discomfort in order to come clean
    Treat others with respect, including consideration of their points of view
  • Importance of research advisors, mentors and student committees 
  • Prioritizing time: classes, assistantship, and research obligations
  • Too many scientists, too poorly trained and with too few prospects?  

Be sure to read the following 

 (Week 2)  Task Group 1 – Research, Ethics, and Society (Social Responsibility)

Recommended topics for panelists (subject to revision):

  1. Academic freedom versus national security
  2. Civil disobedience
  3. Roles of scientists in society 

(Week 3) Task Group 2 – Authorship (Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship)

  • Complete the following CITI course modules by this class: Authorship 

Be sure to read some of the following case studies

Optional readings and additional resources

Optional readings and additional resources:


Perverse incentives:

Recommended topics for panelists (subject to revision):

  1. Papers and proposals – Conflict of interest and commitment?  How much time to spend on them?
  2. Authorship – “not discussed in polite company”
  3. Authorship – merits of alternative methods to determine authorship
  4. Who should and should not be a co-author?
  5. Acknowledgment of those who helped
  6. Forgetting the source of an idea

(Week 4) Task Group 3 – Collaborative Research (Working within a Team) 

  • Complete the following CITI course module by this class:Collaborative Research 

Be sure to contemplate the following

  • Don’t steal
  • Don’t lie or exaggerate
  • Don’t cook data
  • Don’t plagiarize
  • Don’t take credit for the work of others
  • Don’t use others’ ideas without giving credit
  • Don’t obfuscate method descriptions by using more advanced mathematics than is required or by leaving out steps
  • Don’t dissuade others from tackling a task by describing problems you could yourself solve as “hard”
  • Don’t allow situations to occur in which others must do your work for the greater good
  • Don’t allow your schedule to drift so that you habitually hand off urgent projects to your collaborators at the start of the weekend
  • Don’t claim as publicly available any data or program for which documentation is insufficient to allow others easy use without your help.
  • Don’t abuse watchdog rights (FOIA) to obtain confidential information (e.g. from proposals or reviews) 

Optional readings:

ORI–collaborative research: 

Recommended topics for panelists (subject to revision):

  1. Benefits and liabilities of collaborative research?
  2. What to do if interactions become strained?

(Week 5) Task Group 4 – Data Management (Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Comments) 

  • Complete the following CITI course module by this class: Data Management  

Be sure to read the following

Optional readings and additional resources:


Recommended topics for panelists (subject to revision):

  1. Issues with data: ownership; stewardship; sharing; integrity; accuracy
  2. Using other’s data in one’s own research; extracting data from other’s works for use in one’s own research; referencing the work of other’s data in one’s own works.
  3. But what if detractors use your data to constantly harass you? 

(Week 6)  Task Group 5 – Working within the Hierarchy (Mentor-Student Relationships)  

Be sure to read the following

Optional readings:  

Recommended topics for panelists (subject to revision):

  1. Finding an advisor
  2. Role and importance of masters and doctoral committees
  3. Rights/responsibilities of mentors?  Rights/responsibilities of graduate students?
  4. Handling academic integrity issues as a TA
  5. How to deal with perceived inequities and conflict resolution
  6. How to deal with apparent misconduct/Whistle-blowing
  7. Sexual harassment and other examples of power differentials
  8. The challenges of collaborative research

(Week 7)  Task Group 6 – Peer Review

  • Complete the following CITI course modules by this class: Peer Review 

Peer Review 

Recommended topics for panelists (subject to revision):

  1. Peer review in the classroom – importance?
  2. Peer review – does it perpetuate “safe” science, discourage novelty?
  3. Peer review – do reviewers get ideas from the proposals they review?

(Week 8)  Task Group 7 – Research Misconduct (Fabrication, Falsification and Plagiarism; Integrity in Practice; Integrity in Training; Integrity in Learning; Whistle-blowing)

  • Complete the following CITI course modules by this class: Research Misconduct, Plagiarism 

Be sure to read the following:

Optional readings and additional resources:

ORI whistleblowing guidelines:
Advice in Blowing the Whistle: 

Recommended topics for panelists (subject to revision):

  1. Fabrication, Falsification, and Plagiarism (FFP) – Define
  2. FFP – Why does it happen?
  3. Course ethics: homework solutions, exams, course papers
  4. Plagiarism, including borderline cases of misconduct, e.g.,Copyingfrom others? Are the statements really yours? Citing a reference you didn’t read yourself? Self-plagiarizing? Salami publications, i.e., breaking articles up into “least publishable units” to generate more publications?

(Week 9) Diversity in the Sciences: Challenges Facing Women, Minorities, and International Students; Challenges Facing Postdoctoral Scholars 

Be sure to contemplate the following

Optional readings and additional resources:

Recommended topics for panelists (subject to revision):

  1. Diversity in the sciences – why is it important?
  2. Gender discrimination in the sciences
  3. Challenges facing women in the tenure process
  4. African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans in the sciences
  5. Challenges facing international scholars in the U.S.
  6. Creating a learning environment good for all: gender issues; racial issues; political issues; personality issues; a person’s physical space

(Week 10) Wrapping it up (Skills and Experiences that all Researchers Need)

  • Critical skills to effectively move beyond graduate school:
    Know your stuff and as wide a context for it as possible
    Become an expert computer programmer
    Become an expert writer (articles and proposals)
    Become an expert speaker (instruction and presenting research results)
    Become an expert on engaging other scientists (via email, seminars and conferences)
  • What does the future hold? 
    Career tracks for M.S./Ph.D. students
    Changing responsibilities as successes take you to management
  • Facing a job search: 



 Developing an E-Portfolio and Web Presence

  • In-class development of a student’s own web presence on the Department of Meteorology graduate program web site
  • E-Portfolios