• Question: Is there anything that could cause you to lose your job ?

    Asked by potatochild on 14 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Rebecca Moon

      Rebecca Moon answered on 14 Jun 2019:

      Absolutely. As a doctor the biggest rule is “first do no harm”. If a doctor does something that results in significant harm to a patient then the case might be reviewed and if it was felt the care was not up to an expected standard, then the doctor could lose their license to practice.
      Doctors are also bound by confidentiality, meaning that we will not tell other people about the patients, except between colleagues when we need to discuss treatment. This allows patient to know they can tell doctors things and the information would not be shared with someone else. If a doctor breaks confidentiality then that could lead to them losing their job. And obviously if a doctor did something intentionally to harm a patient then it would potentially be a criminal case too.

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 14 Jun 2019:

      Really important question – thanks for asking. Similar reasons that Rebecca has mentioned also apply to vets working in clinical practice, and rogue individuals who seriously break the rules can be suspended or even struck off the Register of Veterinary Surgeons by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Cases of clinical neglect are pretty rare, and most complaints raised against vets largely arise from miscommunication with clients, rather than true ‘misdemeanour’ on the job. Our main responsibility is to ‘ensure the welfare of animals committed to our care’ so when there is clear evidence that we have failed in that responsibility, there may be a case to answer – examples might be failing to provide adequate pain relief or emergency treatment. Other reasons thats vets have been struck off include fraudulent behaviour such as falsifying signatures on statutory documents (e.g. pet passports or meat certificates), using off-licence or dangerous drugs inappropriately, or bringing the Profession into disrepute through other reckless/illegal behaviour outside of work (such as dangerous/drink driving). You can find out more about the RCVS Disciplinary Committee and cases that have been heard here:


      The main threat to other scientific jobs is usually funding – the funds I have now only last for 4 years – if I don’t manage to secure another grant at the end of that, my research would either have to stop, or I would have to change my career trajectory – it does not necessarily mean I would have to leave sicence completely, but I would have to move to a research question/area/group that can pay my salary, or go back into full time clinical work. Scientists are certainly held to account for their actions – scientific misconduct (such as falsifying data or abusing colleagues) can lead to dismissal from academic and other research institutions. Other reasons might be breaches of project licences (that protect laboratory animal welfare), or actions that seriously compromise the health and safety of other individuals. Scientific misconduct not only results in an individual losing a job – it can seriously undermine the reputation of any individuals that person has worked with/trained and the retraction of published papers from journals (resulting from identification of falsified data) can ruin many careers – falsification of data is perhaps the most serious issue, because sometimes it is hard to detect and may not get picked up until many years after the work has been published during which time, many other researchers may have misinterpreted the findings and wasted valuable time and money working on something that is unlikely to produce useful results. Thankfully this is very rare, but it highlights the importance of thorough peer review of papers prior to publishing, and open access publication so that anyone can scrutinise the data and the methods used to obtain it.

    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 15 Jun 2019:

      As I don’t work with patients, anything that causes me to lose my job would probably be incompetence or doing something inappropriate or offending someone. Having said that, research is very much an occupation that relies on funding and most of the time, that funding only lasts a couple of years. So if I didn’t find funding to continue research, that essentially makes my job redundant so that would make me lose it too.

    • Photo: Thiloka Ratnaike

      Thiloka Ratnaike answered on 16 Jun 2019:

      I am also a doctor, so I second what Rebecca has said about the kind of situations that could lead to losing your job or disciplinary actions- main/common scenarios being breach of patient-doctor confidentiality, mistreating a patient, wilfully doing harm etc. There are good procedures and checks for doctors to go through which should mean that these sort of things don’t happen that often at all, in fact- extremely rarely!

    • Photo: Kate Timms

      Kate Timms answered on 17 Jun 2019:

      One of the most important things in science is research integrity. This covers two main areas: conducting your experiments in an ethical manner and not falsifying (making up) your results.
      Being unethical would be things like not having the proper permission to do a certain experiment on either a human sample (I use placentas) or on an animal.
      The not making up your results is pretty obvious. But with all the data analysis and big data work going on now in science, the line is becoming a bit blurry. There are lots of things you can do to ‘transform’ your data, and most of these are quite legitimate. But it would be easy to take this too far and stray into data manipulation. That’s why it’s really important that scientists keep detailed record of everything they do in the lab and at their computer.

    • Photo: Marianne King

      Marianne King answered on 17 Jun 2019:

      As a PhD student I’d probably have to do something really awful, like assault someone or say something hugely inappropriate for me to lose my place. Maybe things as well like sabotaging people’s research or lying about results might cause me to lose my job. But I don’t know to be honest, I just try to do good science and behave myself!

    • Photo: David Wilson

      David Wilson answered on 17 Jun 2019:

      There’s two things i could lose my job over.
      The first is, as Kate says, Research Integrity and the falsification of data. If you want to see some examples of this you could have a look at https://pubpeer.com/ where scientists can comment on published data and where examples of data and image manipulation crop up. Also, https://retractionwatch.com/ can give an idea into how falsification of data can occur. As few years ago there was an interesting case, if you google : STAP stem-cell you should be able to find it. A group of Scientists at the RIKEN in Japan. They said they’d found away to create pluripotent stem cells however nobody could replicate their experiments.
      The other way I could face prosecution and lost my job would be due to negligence working with animals. The UK has some of the strictest laws in the world regarding the use of animals. We should always be trying to replace them with a better model, refine the ones we do use and try to reduce our use. I am registered with the Home Office, which is part of the government, and I am trained and regularly assessed to make sure I’m doing everything properly. The welfare of the animals is our top priority.

    • Photo: Shonna Johnston

      Shonna Johnston answered on 17 Jun 2019:

      Inappropriate behaviour and anything that goes against university policy would certainly warrant disciplinary action and if serious enough could lead to dismissal.
      Universities generally have really good employment policies which cover most issues.

    • Photo: Ettie Unwin

      Ettie Unwin answered on 19 Jun 2019:

      In addition to what the others have said – I work with a lot of data. The government has recently tightened up the rules about what data you can store on your computers about other people so I have to make sure I follow these rules very carefully so I don’t get into trouble. Most of what I use has been de-identified or all the information that would allow someone to work out whose it is has been removed. This has less strict rules than personal information about people.

    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 20 Jun 2019:

      Yes, a whole load of things, all the usual things with any job:

      being rude and offensive, treating people inappropriately, violence and aggression, Bullying, and all the rest.

      But also with science you have a lot of legal things such as:

      -Not getting proper consent or doing things without a persons consent
      -Not following laboratory safety

      those kind of things