Thanks to an article in The Scientist, I spent an enjoyable hour this morning playing a character in an interactive movie. Titled The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct, the movie aims to bring issues of research misconduct to life. The story concerns a medical research worker who misuses a junior colleague’s data and publishes a fraudulent paper. Viewers can play one of the four main characters, and the choices that character makes influence the outcome of the drama.
I chose to play Kim Park, a third-year graduate student. The first time round, I had Kim make the decisions I thought I might have made in real life. That didn’t have a good outcome – the fraudster realised he was going to be investigated by the university authorities and had time to cover his tracks. I tried again, making better choices so that the fraudster got caught. However, the outcome for my character was nearly as bad. Kim was ostracised by her drinking buddies, her experiments were sabotaged and her lab book was stolen. There was a happy ending eventually, with Kim moving to a new lab and completing her studies, but she took an extra year to do so.
I found the scenarios and the outcome realistic, and this seems a great way to stimulate discussion among scientists about the different types of research misconduct and how to avoid them.