I'm a STEM major and I'm doing my internship in a data science department, where the primary task is to develop machine learning models for healthcare.
I was genuinely excited to start working with them, but soon I realized they barely had any stable project to work on, let alone data. They are young and very disorganized. Since I wanted my internship to be somehow useful, I picked a problem and tried to build a model that could help solving it. I chose a task that professionals perform on a daily basis and that involves pattern-recognition skills. After reading a few articles related to the problem I figured out a new (not mind-blowing nor amazing, but still new) way to build a model to perform this pattern-recognition task. Since I had no data, I needed to gather it from free databases and to label it myself; this was a kinda painful process, since I don't have healthcare training and I needed to learn (and to properly identify) which trends/patterns were important so that I could label my data to train my models.
I was shockingly surprised when, after training the models, gathering the information and analyzing it, I got very good results. My model is indeed good for identifying what I wanted.
Now my superiors want to keep and to deploy the model. When I was talking to someone that could provide the financial support to do so, I mentioned I have no training in healthcare and still had the obligation to label the data myself, so I asked in the "requirements list" for the model to be successful to have a professional to look at the theory I took into account, to help with gathering more data and to label it. At the end of the talk my boss was mad, and asked me to not say that in future meetings.
I'm disgusted. It's not ethical to omit that kind of details. If the model is indeed going to be used in healthcare, it NEEDS to be reliable, and it will surely not be very reliable if an inexperienced person labeled the data it was trained on. I need to write a report to be published, and I intend to include a note that clearly explains that
- the theory and labeled data is in the process of being validated by a professional, and
- that the results obtained indeed show that my approach was good, and that by increasing the size and quality of the data set the final tool would be a good one.
Point two validates the utility of the model (that is what they want) and point one addressed my concerns. My questions are:
- Should I keep stating the fact that I performed a task I'm not qualified to even if my superiors don't want me to do so?
- How can I explain to them that I feel more comfortable doing so, since my name (and reputation) is involved, and since any project of this kind must be transparent?
My team was aware of the fact I wasn't feeling comfortable labeling that kind of data without the advice of a professional, but dismissed it, so I just kept working. I never thought it would be a problem to say that to external people, considering that I'm explaining why (after cleaning the data and making sure the facts taken into account are actually useful for people working in healthcare) the final model can be useful.
Some of you think I aired confidential information during a meeting, and that is not the case:
- I started working on my own project, I needed to read medical literature to define it and later to label data on my own.
- I stated I wasn't feeling comfortable and that, at the end, I would need a professional looking at the theory/labeling to get an informed opinion, and no one seemed annoyed nor interested in that. It wasn't a big deal.
- Now that my project is getting good results, I was asked to share it with people that potentially could provide financial aid to keep the project going.
- My team asked me to explain to the external people what I need in order to keep the project going. I didn't ask for money but instead asked for someone in that specific area of medicine to look at the details.
- My team was mad at me.
How on earth was I supposed to know I wasn't allowed to share that?
My time with them is ending soon, and I'm writing a "paper" (I prefer to call it a "report"), and of course I need to include the information I took into account to make inferences. Even if I got scolded, I feel I cannot write it without saying that approval from a professional is pending. If the theory behind the model is accurate, then great, but if I write bullshit on my paper, at least people will know why and I won't dirty the literature with my report.
I want to add that note to my report, and if I'm asked to remove it I will, but at least there will be a record of me stating that. I'm not giving more details since this question blew up and I feel kinda exposed, but thank you all for your comments.