Independent Confirmation of a Colleague's Results
A graduate student brings her advisor experimental data that suggests a major breakthrough. The advisor asks another graduate student to repeat the experiment, in order to verify the accuracy and reproducibility of these results. He also asks the second student not to discuss this with anyone else, so as to ensure independent confirmation of the results. How should the second student proceed?
G9L says: It would seem that the investigator might engender better loyalty and integrity among his students if he discussed with the first student that he wanted independent confirmation of the results, then told the second student in to repeat the specific experiments in a blinded run, and then compared results. Since presumably the original data were generated by the student within the context of a mentor-trainee relationship, the investigator is responsible for confirming prior to dissemination. All three people should share in disseminating the information, with the first student as lead author and the investigator as senior author.
K5R says: I don't see a problem with either repeating the experiment or in not discussing it with others. However, the student should bring concerns to the investigator or at least question the investigator about an open discussion once the experimental results are independently confirmed. The first graduate student who found the important result should not be left out of the loop and should share recognition.