Data Selection, Legitimate or Illegitimate? (adapted from NSPE Case No. 85-5)


A graduate student intentionally omits some of his research data.



Student taking notes in lab notebook

Photograph by Lee Jennings

Elton, an engineer, is conducting graduate research at a major university. In order to complete his graduate studies and produce an advanced degree, Elton must develop a research report. As a part of the effort to develop his report, Elton compiles a vast amount of data relevant to his subject.

The vast majority of data obtained by Elton strongly support not only his report's conclusion, but also the conclusions of others. However, a small proportion of the data differs from the data consistent with Elton's conclusion. Convinced that his report is sound however, and concerned that the inclusion of the anomalous data would only detract from the essentials of the report, Elton does not include these figures in the report.

Was Elton guilty of falsification of research results in omitting the anomalous data? What type of additional information would be ethically relevant to this case?

NSPE Code of Ethics An earlier version may have been used in this case.