“Borrowing” Without Permission

Lisa, a postdoctoral student in Prof. X’s lab is told that she will not be re-appointed when her current 1-year contract expires. Lisa feels that Prof. X has the funds to support her but that he simply doesn’t like her and that is why he is not reappointing her. Angry with Prof. X and determined to get back at him, Lisa decides that she will take her lab notebooks, some lab supplies, and several critical laboratory reagents when she leaves. Lisa is surprised a month later when armed policemen show up at her parents’ home to arrest her…

Consider each of the following questions and evaluate the case study:

1. What is the action or inaction that is the cause for concern?


2. Who or what may be affected?


3. How will they be affected? (i.e., what are the possible consequences?)


4. Are there any laws, regulations written or unwritten that may apply?


5. What actions might be taken and what would the consequences of these actions be?


6. Can anything be done to prevent this from reoccurring or to minimize the severity of the consequences?


Basis for Case Study 3

This case is based on two incidents and a series of articles that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2002 and 2006 describing several incidents in which students allegedly removed research materials from the academic laboratories in which they worked and the consequences of their actions on all involved:

C.E. Shoichet. (2002) Chronicle of Higher Education, July 31. “Former Research Assistant at Cornell U. Accused of Stealing Biological Materials to Take to China.”


A.M. Borrego. (2002) Chronicle of Higher Education. June 20. “2 Scientists Who Worked in Harvard Professor’s Lab Are Accused of Stealing Secrets.”

A.K. Walters. (2006) Chronicle of Higher Education. April 17. “2 Scientists Admit They Stole Research Material from Harvard Lab.”