Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Brown Bag Lunches...Ideas for topics for Fall 2014

CSEP will be restarting its Brown Bag Lunches this coming semester. Each lunch focuses on a ethics topic in engineering, science, and the social sciences and following a short talk, participants will be invited to take part in an informal discussion.  Topics can be just about anything from current events in the news to longstanding ethical issues that arise in professional practices.

We are looking for ideas for topics as well as suggestions for speakers, so please feel free to reply to this blog post or email Kelly Laas at with your thoughts!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

AAAS Workshop, February 13th - Responsible Professional Practices in a Changing Research Environment—Integrating Ethics Education Into the Research Environment.

Come join us at a AAAS workshop on Research Ethics! 

A full-day Workshop on Responsible Professional Practices in a Changing Research Environment—Integrating Ethics Education Into the Research Environment.

February 13, 2014, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm. Breakfast and lunch provided.

The Hyatt Regency Chicago, Skyway 260.

The workshop is grounded in a recognition that many research ethics issues are relevant to the practice and application of science, from developing hypotheses and designing a protocol, to data management and analysis, to reporting findings and advising others on the uses of the work.  Integrating ethics instruction into the performance of those various stages of research can be an effective strategy for educating future researchers. Participants will be introduced to rationales, content, approaches, tools, and resources to give them the means to develop and implement research ethics education in specific research environments.


University administrators, faculty, and post-docs interested in creating concrete, discipline-specific strategies to incorporate research ethics education into the context of the research environment, whether it be a lab or field work.


The meeting is open to all for a US$25.00 fee. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more from the same institution. (For details, contact One need not register or attend any part of the AAAS Annual Meeting to participate in this special workshop. To register:

1.       Go to the AAAS Annual Meeting registration page,
2.    ShowAAA131/Default.aspx, and click the General Attendees box.
        3. Login: enter your email address and password; click next 3. Membership: enter your AAAS member information or click "not a member"; click next
        4. Contact: enter your contact information; click next
        5. Registration Type: for those who plan to attend the workshop, but are not registering for the Annual Meeting, select option C "Pre-Meeting Workshop Only"; click next
        6. Select the option "Responsible Professional Practices in a Changing Research Environment"; click next
        7. Continue through the registration process and enter your payment information.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure

Though out for a while, I just came across this unusual publication. The Encyclopedia of Ethics Failure is published by the U.S. Department of Defense. Started 10 years ago, it is meant to be an ethics guide for government employees. In an effort the keep employees' attention on a subject that can often be rather dry, the DoD Standards of Conduct adopted this eye-catching name and assembled a selection of cases of ethical failure for use as a training tool.

Its an eye-opening read, and you can catch an interview with the founding editor of the Encyclopedia and its current editor from a July 2013 interview done by Freakconomics.

An interesting example of how to make ethics education more alive to this perspective audience.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Is Snowden a whistleblower?

Here at the Center, we often talk about what it takes to be a whistleblower and what kinds of protections whistleblowers should have from retribution after they report wrongdoing. While waiting out this latest chilly spell of weather, I spent a lot of time listening to NPR and heard an interesting exchange on Morning Edition about if Edward Snowden and what his status should be. Is he a criminal for leaking classified documents? Is he a whistleblower and a hero for helping make the public aware of the extent to which our government is spying on its citizens?Or is he something in between?

On January 1st the New York Times published an editorial called Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower that argues that Snowden deserves far better than a life in exile, as his leaked documents have led to public revelations about the National Security Association's collecting of of millions of phone calls, email messages and and other information. As Congress scrutinizes these practices and the Obama administration  and it does seem that this might be one of those classic cases of whistleblowing. Snowden's leaks at least partially led to the forming of a  panel convened by President Obama to review the National Security Agency's current policies. In December, the panel put out a number of recommendations, including that the NSA should be banned from attempting to undermine the security of the internet and from collecting telephone records in bulk. So Snowden's leaks have lead to a number of reforms already in this area.

However, Fred Kaplan of Slate Magazine wrote an interesting piece a few days ago about why he thinks Snowden should not get clemency.  While aplauding the public debate raised by Snowden's actions, Kaplan condemns his leaking of information that deals with the NSA's international surveillance programs, as well as his the way in which he gained access to these documents by lying to his colleagues.

So what do you think? Should we view Edward Snowden as a whistle-blower who deserves some leniency when considering how he gained access to and leaked these classified documents to the world? Or does his actions place him outside of the definition of whistleblower?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Break Hours

The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions will be closed from December 24th to January 1st due to the winter break. We will reopen on January 2nd.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Be a Moderator in the 2013 Regional Ethics Bowl Competition on November 23rd!

The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions would like to invite you to be a moderator in the Upper Midwest Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl on Saturday, November 23rd  at IIT’s main campus. Come and be a part of this exciting competition!
The Ethics Bowl combines the fun of a competitive tournament with a valuable educational experience for undergraduate students. In the ethics bowl, a moderator poses questions to teams of three to five students. Questions may concern ethical problems on wide ranging topics, such as the classroom (e.g. cheating or plagiarism), personal relationships (e.g. dating or friendship), professional ethics (e.g. engineering, law, medicine), or social and political ethics (e.g. free speech, gun control, etc.) Each team receives a set of ethical issues in advance of the competition, and questions posed to teams at the competition are taken from that set. A panel of judges evaluates answers; rating criteria are intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness.
IIT will be sponsoring two teams this year who will be competing against 18 different teams from universities around the Midwest.

The competition will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We will have a judges' & moderators' training breakfast at 8:30, and then there will be four different rounds of ethics bowl, two before lunch, and two after lunch. Both lunch and breakfast will be provided, as well as parking passes on campus. A moderator's role is to help keep the rounds running  on time, read out the questions, and collect the scores of the judges at the end of the match. It a great way to be part of the competition without the stress of having to judge or compete!
If you have questions or are interested in being a part of the competition, please email Kelly Laas at
We hope you can join us!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Must Read Articles on Science Communication

In their October 4th issue, Science has a pretty incredible collection of articles that I am having a hard time not quoting in every conversation I have with my colleagues and students. The articles cover a number of old and new issues in science communication- everything from the the benefits and challenges of open access publishing to the world of classified academic journals - and hopefully will elicit some much needed conversations about these issues in the scientific disciplines.

The star article of the collection has to be "Who's Afraid of Peer Review" by John Bohannon, which describes the frightening number of open-access academic journals who published his spoof scientific paper without any sort of adequate peer review process. The spoof paper included a number of glaring errors and suspect conclusions that any reputable scientist should have caught. Unfortunately, of the 255 papers he submitted to journals that made it through the full review process, a full 157 of these journals accepted the faulty paper compared to 98 journals who rejected it.

When the article hit the web last week, it garnered its own share of criticism. Many bloggers and other scientists have pointed out that Bohannon should have also submitted his spoof paper to traditional subscription journals as well - it would have been helpful to be able to draw comparisons- and the fact that a subscription-based journal published this article criticizing open access in itself raises some conflict of interest flags. The problem could be not just with open-access journals, but with  lower-level academic journals of all kinds who fail to adequately review papers before they publish. In response to this criticism, the author stated that while he planned to submit papers to both open-access and subscription journals, he soon realized the complexity and time needed for such a huge study, and scaled back his investigation to include only open-access journals.

Whatever your final conclusions about this article, it is impossible to ignore the real problems that plague the world of scientific publishing - open access and more traditional journals alike. So over lunch today, I highly recommend digging in to this issue of Science and some of the related discussion it has prompted in the blogosphere. You won't regret the time spent.