Professional Conduct of Work-Academic Integrity - Carnegie Mellon University

Professional Conduct of Work

Professionalism for the faculty involves designing syllabi which accurately indicate the subject matter and practices of each course and meeting all scheduled classes fully prepared for the assigned work. It also involves the certification of students in their areas of expertise. The university is obligated to provide measures of student progress in the form of grades, degrees, and honors. These attest to society that both faculty and students have fulfilled their commitments. Degrees and honors certify that a level of performance has been met in a student's demonstration of acquisition and use of knowledge, so it is imperative that grading be a fair, accurate and honest measure of a student's work. At the same time, faculty need to be cognizant of the pressure on students to view grades, which they see as determining their job prospects, as "the be all and end all" of their university experiences and to devise strategies in the classroom to make learning, rather than receiving grades, the central focus.

The ethics governing research must be understood, practiced and communicated to students. This involves being clear and truthful about the ownership of research results and data, avoiding conflicts of interest (or disclosing them when they cannot be avoided), and making only honest and accurate claims in reporting research. In the context of the university, the professional conduct of work has two distinct dimensions: professionalism in one's discipline or area of expertise and professionalism as a member of the university. The distinction between these aspects of professionalism in the academy must be clearly understood and communicated. In addition, each of the various academic disciplines and fields of endeavor represented at Carnegie Mellon has its own implicit and explicit standards for professional work. These are binding on faculty, administration and staff, and must be communicated to students as part of their preparation to become professionals. Research ethics also entails the open discussion of the propriety of the university's involvement in work that seems to be detrimental to society given the values of our mission.

Professional research in the academy is involved with several of its unique institutional goals, including the education of undergraduates, graduate education and certification for professional roles, and faculty tenure.  These features pose issues specific to the academy, issues which must be acknowledged and treated explicitly if we are to be clear, open and consistent. The practices of other organizations may therefore not be entirely relevant to those in the university. Recognizing that students are learners demands that they be involved in ongoing research in ways which benefit their education, rather than merely as assistants in faculty projects. Students need also to be clearly informed about standards of behavior and performance that are accepted practices in the discipline and held responsible to them. This should be done proactively as a learning experience rather than retroactively as a punitive experience.