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Scientists Say There's No Easy Way To Handle Lab Conflicts

AUTHORSHIP ISSUES: Washington University's Fredrick Sweet says papers often cause conflicts. All professional situations involving people working together have the potential to foster conflict, but laboratory environments can present unique sources of tension, scientists report. The collaborative nature of the work can lead to clashes over authorship of papers, conflict-of-interest questions, and struggles between junior and senior researchers, both within and outside the lab. When allowed to

Thomas Durso


AUTHORSHIP ISSUES: Washington University's Fredrick Sweet says papers often cause conflicts.
All professional situations involving people working together have the potential to foster conflict, but laboratory environments can present unique sources of tension, scientists report. The collaborative nature of the work can lead to clashes over authorship of papers, conflict-of-interest questions, and struggles between junior and senior researchers, both within and outside the lab. When allowed to fester untouched, such conflicts can escalate into major confrontations.

Published guidelines can help scientists answer some ethical questions, but lab managers, for the most part, are on their own when dealing with conflict, notes Carlisle Landel, a research scientist and lab manager at the DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. He recommends dealing directly with the parties who are in conflict, "in a fair manner" and using "fair criteria." But such tactics, like many other managerial skills, aren't taught to most scientists...

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