Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Break Hours

The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions will be closed from December 24-January 2 for winter break. We will resume regular hours on Monday, January 3rd.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Holiday Hours

The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions will be closed on Thursday, November 24th and Friday, November 25th for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. We will open again on Monday, November 29th.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ASEE Prism and Senior Fellow Michael Davis

CSEP's Senior Fellow Michael Davis is mentioned in an article in the October 2010 edition of ASEE's Prisim discussing how historical case studies can be used to teach ethics and responsibility to future engineers. The article focuses on a number of courses taught by Dr. Marilyn Dyrud at the Oregon Institute of Technology which ask students to grapple with case studies such as the Challenger Disaster, the letting off of the atomic bomb in Japan, and the sinking of the Titanic. Dr. Dryud agrees with Dr. Davis that instructors should include ethics issues in standards engineering courses along also offering more standard engineering ethics courses.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Questionable Science Behind Academic Rankings

A recent article published in the New York Times questions the validity of academic ranking systems such as the Times Higher Education ranking list, citing the over-important role bibliometrics play in these rankings. In the case of Alexandria University, the author discusses how this university's high ranking seems to be due to the publications of Dr. Mohamed El Naschie, an Egyptian academic who published over 320 of his own articles in a scientific journal of which he is also the editor. The author goes on to discuss the problems that exist in trying to measure academic excellence, and the validity of using bibliometrics (or how often faculty members are cited in scholarly journals) as a way to measure the quality or influence of a university department.

Are there other, more nuanced ways of measuring the impact of universities, and how much weight should we ascribe to academic rankings of this kind?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Workplace Ethics and Facebook

An article from Monday's edition of the New York Times reports on a recent case where the National Labor Relations Board has stepped in to argue that workers' criticisms of their bosses or companies on a social networking sites are generally a protected activity and that employers would be violating the law for punishing works for such statements.

The Labor Relations Board filed a complaint last week against the ambulance company, American Medical Response of Connecticut who fired an emergency medical technician who violated a company policy that bars employees from depicting the company "in any way" on Facebook or other social media sites in which they post pictures of themselves. The Labor Board says that the company's rule was "overly broad" and improperly limited employees rights to discuss working conditions among themselves.

Should employees have the right to air complaints against their employees on social networking sites? Conversely, should employers have the right to hold employees accountable for what they post on their own Facebook pages?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gene Patenting

On October 29th, the U.S. Justice Department issued a legal brief suggesting that the government's long-standing support of the practice of gene patenting might be coming to an end. The brief, which was issues as part of a landmark gene-patent lawsuit, argues that simply identifying an important DNA sequence is not enough to justify a patent. Instead, the brief argued that DNA sequences that have been manipulated in some way should be patentable.

This "friend-the-court" brief was filed in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation challenging patents held by Myriad Genetics on the human genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 which are associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Opponents of gene patenting argue that this practice stifles diagnostic testing and research that can lead to cures, as well as potentially limiting patients' options regarding their medical care. Proponants argue that the ability to patent genes has helped the U.S. lead the way in the life sciences, and biotechnology companies claim that gene patents are necessary to protect their investment in research and development. However, other players in genetics may welcome a change. As genetic tests are becoming more complicated and involve larger sets of genes, diagnostic companies worry that they will have to license an every-growing number of patents to put together a single genetic test.

You can read more in the following two articles.

Marshall, Eliot. "Justice Department Raises Doubt on Gene Patents." Science. November 1, 2010

Ledford, Heidi. "U.S. Government Wants Limits on Gene Patents." Nature. November 2, 2010.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Senior Fellow Michael Davis appointed to Ethics Committee of the New National Center for Professional and Research Ethics

Dr. Michael Davis, Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, has been nominated to be on the Ethics Committee of the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics at the University of Illinois. The Center, funded through a five year, $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, will include an online portal for professional and research ethics in science, mathematics and engineering.

Click here to read more about this exciting new project.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan Williams and the NPR Code of Ethics

NPR recently ended their contract with news analyst Juan Williams after comments he made made on the Fox New Channel show the O'Riley Factor, citing that this comment was inconsistent with NPR's ethical standards and practices.

NPR Coverage of the story can be seen here.

Fox News Channel's coverage of the story can be seen here.

The New York Times coverage of the story can be seen here.

The NPR Code of Ethics does appear to cover the behavior and comments NPR journalists can make when they appear in outside speaking engagements, though we can guess that Juan Williams did get permission to appear on the show from NPR, as required by the code. However, should codes of ethics regulate what a journalist can say when he is not "on the job"? How far should an ethics code govern the behavior of the employees of a business or a profession?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Retraction Watch

While reading an article in the New York Times last Thursday reporting on the withdrawal of a paper from the journal Nature focusing on possibility that the aging of stem cells may be reversible, I came across a link to the new blog Retraction Watch. Written by Adam Marcus, the managing editor of Anesthesiology News, and Ivan Oransky, the executive editor of Reuters Health and a professor of medical journalism at New York University, the blog seeks to explore the world of scientific publications by drawing attention to retracted papers, the time it takes for a paper to be retracted, and how journals handle retractions and make this information available to their audience.

The blog is meant to help notify the scientific community about retractions, and also contains a number of interesting posts about the nature of authorship and the peer review process. This is certainly a blog that we will be following on a regular basis.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Research Involving Native Communities, Conflicts and Collaborations

An article in the latest issue of Science Magazine discusses the impact the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act passed by the U.S. Congress twenty years ago has had on relations between Native American communities and scientists, and how new rules passed this year are likely to continue to complicate matters.

To read more, see "Grave Disputes" by John Travis, Science Magazine, Vol. 330, Issue 6001. pp.166-170.

The American Archaeological Association has also addressed a number of these concerns in their Code of Professional Conduct.

Though disputes still frequently occur, many archaeologists have found ways to collaborate with native communities. This same issue of Science Magazine contains a short article about a 12-year long collaboration between a team of archaeologists and paleontologists and the Tlingit tribe in Alaska where when the scientists discovered human remains on tribal land, the local tribe gave the scientists access to the bones and then jointly reburied the remains in a two-day celebration that involved the Tlingit, local bureaucrats and the scientists.

Monday, October 11, 2010

New Web Code Draws Concern Over Privacy Risks

With concern rising over internet privacy, the New York Times reports on how the fifth version of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) presents more tracking opportunities for advertisers who could, experts say, potentially see weeks or months of personal data, including information on a user's location, time zone, photographs, texts from blogs, emails and a history of web pages visited.

To read the full article, see New Web Code Draws Concern Over Privacy Risks by Tanzina Vega, New York Times, October 10, 2010.

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Look for the NanoEthicsBank

We have spent this past summer working on developing a new interface for the NanoEthicsBank, and we would love to get your feedback!

New searching abilities are coming soon, as we work on getting the Apache Solr search integrated into the existing site, so keep checking back to see what new features are available.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lab Quits Research After Video of Animal Treatment

A short article in the New York Time this week discusses the the problems a North Carolina laboratory is facing after PETA release and undercover video showing lab workers cruelly treating cats, dogs, and rabbits. The company voluntarily stopped research after the video was released, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has started a formal investigation.

Stories like this should prompt us all to consider how animals are used in the testing of consumer products and in medical research. No matter what your stance is on this topic, most would agree that researchers have a duty to minimize the suffering of animals under their care. For more information, check out a bibliography that CSEP Library has put together of best practices, guidelines, and books and articles discussing the use of animals research subjects.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ethics Bibliographies

Over this summer, CSEP Library has been working with the Online Ethics Center of the National Academy of Engineering to develop a series of bibliographies on ethical questions that arise in engineering practice, such as issues of sustainability, social justice, professional practice and legal issues. Check out the full list by visiting the Bibliographies Section of the OEC site.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Update on Harvard Misconduct case

A committee at Harvard University has found psychology faculty member Marc Hauser "solely responsible" for eight instances of scientific misconduct, including problems in three published and five unpublished studies of data acquisition, data analysis, data retention and the reporting of research methodologies and results.

See "Harvard Finds Psychology Researcher "Solely Responsible" for Scientific Misconduct" by Tom Bartlett, Chronicle of Higher Education, 8/20/2010.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In Harvard Lab Inquiry, a Raid and 3-Year Wait

Interesting article in the New Times discussing the career of well-known Harvard psychologist Dr. Marc Hauser and questions being raised about his research methods and the validity of some of his findings. Is this a question of an innovative scientist having research methods that differ from his colleagues and a few honest mistakes made, or a question of misconduct?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Peers nip misconduct in the bud

A relatively recent editorial in the July 22 edition of Nature reports the results of a survey looking at how scientists respond when they see instances of misconduct being performed by their colleagues. The results show that informal intervention where a researcher talks to his colleague in an non-adversarial way is often an effective way to change behavior, and respondents reported to have suffered little fallout from these interventions.

To read more, please see Peers Nip Misconduct in the Bud by Gerald Koocher and Patricia Keith-Spiegel

(A subscription to Nature is required to view the full article.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fixing Peer Review

An editorial in the latest edition of The Scientist discusses five academic papers that ended up being published in less prestigious journals than they should have due to problems in the peer review system. These problems include that the peer review process discourages truly innovative ideas whole publishing status quo or "hot" fields of the day, and that it can take months or years to be able to spot and evaluate the importance of a paper and the impact it may have on its field.

For years, the peer review process has attracted criticism, and this paper aptly highlights five instances when peer review failed. The question is, what are some better alternatives to the process at it currently exists today?

The full article is available off The Scientist Web site. "Breakthroughs from the Second Tier"

Monday, July 26, 2010

Offshore Stem Cell Clinics Sell Hope, Not Science

This morning on NPR, reporter Richard Knox discussed how some overseas companies are offering stem cell treatments to customers over the web for spine injuries, heart disease, and many other conditions. However, for many of these conditions stem cell treatment is not the answer, and customers often spend thousands of dollars on stem-cell therapies with little benefit to themselves.

Read or listen to the full article here.

Should the national governments or other international regulatory organizations try and put a stop to this kind of false advertising, or this a case of buyer beware?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oil Debate Spills into Academe

Interesting article about some university faculty who initially volunteered to help BP with the oil spill cleanup, and the reasons many of them decided to back out after reading the fine print.

See full article here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Coordinating Efforts and Ensuring Transparency for Relief Work in Haiti

In an Op-Ed in the New York Times, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and the current Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive discuss the efforts of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission to coordinate rebuilding efforts and to meet needs of the Haitian people six months after the earthquake that hit the nation in January 2010. In disaster relief efforts of this kind, issues of transparency and collaboration are key as organizations try and make sure that funds and support get to those most in need, and that the hundreds of NGO's and other programs now in Haiti work together to provide sustainable solutions for the many communities affected by the earthquake.

Finishing Haiti's Unfinished Work, New York Times, July 9, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

British Panel Clears Climate Scientists

A British panel has exonerated a number of scientists who had been accused of manipulating their research to support preconceived ideas about global warming. This includes Phil Jones, a leading climatologist at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, who stepped down from his research position as the investigation was pending. After the results of the inquiry were released, the university immediately reinstated him into a job resembling his old position.

However, the panel also rebuked the scientists for their reluctance to release computer files backing up their scientific work, and declared that a graph they had produced about climate change in a 1999 publication was "misleading" and should have contained caveats. The inquiry started after a series of embarrassing email messages set by Dr. Jones and other scientists were taken from a computer at the university and posed on the internet. The emails led to a deluge of accusations from climate-change skeptics, and has resulted in a series of five reviews on the research and conduct of scientists involved in this controversy. While these reviews mostly supported the research findings of the scientists, they did fault them for "...failing to display the proper degree of openness" in responding to demands for backup data and other information under Britain’s laws governing public records.

For more information, please see the New York Times article of July 7th.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fighting Cheating and Plagiarism in Universities

Colleges turn to technology and online tutorials to try and solve the problem of student cheating and plagiarism, as reported in this recent article from the New York Times.
Does your university rely on other methods, such as honor codes, tutorials, or class discussions about plagiarism? Do these technologies work to reduce student plagiarism, or should they be part of a wider program?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Women in Science

A recent article in the New York Times revisits the controversy caused by Dr. Leroy Summers in 2005 after giving a speech at the conference, "Diversity the Science and Engineering Workforce" during which he said that an innate difference between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers. The author of the article raises a number of questions about reasons for the smaller number of women in science and engineering, and recent studies looking at gender difference in how children score on science and mathematics standardized tests.

The full article is available at "Daring to Discuss Women in Science" by John Tierney from the June 7th edition of the New York Times.

CSEP Fellow, Michael Davis, quoted in NY Times

Center Fellow Michael Davis was quoted in an article in the June 11th edition of the New York Times in an article about conflicts of interest in the professions.

To read more, please visit, "Chinese Walls, Pocked with Peepholes" by David Segal.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Arizona State Settles DNA Case with Indian Tribe

An interesting article in the New York Times, discussing issues of the ethical handling and use of human DNA, especially when working with indigenous communities.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Redesigning Haiti: Roles for IIT Students - Needs and Opportunities in A Challenged Community

The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, along with IIT's College of Architecture, the Armour College of Engineering and the IPRO Office are sponsoring a talk that will provide a "snapshot" of the devastation from the Haiti earthquake, identifying needs and future projects that IIT students can initiate and sustain.

Speaker: Andre Brumfield, Award-winning City Planner, and Principal/Director of AECOM, A Firm of City Planners, Architects, and Engineers, will speak about his experiences designing for challenged communities, and insights gained from his recent trip to Haiti.

Respondents:Professor Laura Hosman -- Political Scientist, Social Science Department and Dhara Shah – President, Engineers Without Borders (Student Chapter)

Tuesday, April 20, 12:30-1:30 pm
Crown Hall, Lower Core
IIT Main Campus

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ethics Subject Guides

The Ethics Center Library is continually updating and expanding its subject resource guides. Check out the guides in the box below for a full listing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

CSEP/ComEd Discussion Forum

On March 2, a novel question and answer ethics forum was held in Galvin Library with twenty invited IIT students and ComEd engineering directors Timothy Bulthaup, Ken Cicirale, Bill Fluhler and Marketing Director Jennifer Montague. Arranged by Vivian Weil, director of IIT’'s Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions and Michelle Blaise, engineering director for reliability at ComEd, the forum participants delved into issues of engineering and business ethics.

The forum participants started with questions about the Toyota safety recall and how this related to questions of safety versus profit, and considered along the way how engineers can use a job interview to assess the ethical climate of a company and how newly hired engineers can get a place at the table in decision making to deal with problems. The panelists ended with discussion of how companies become proactive regarding ethical issues and technology development.

We plan on organizing future discussion forums between ComEd engineers and IIT students in the near future. Please check back for the next forum date!

Monday, March 1, 2010

IPRO Ethics Bowl Competition

The first ever IPRO Ethics Bowl Competition will be held on March 19th, 2010 in Hermann Hall from 8:30-12:30. For more information, access to the case studies to be discussed, rules of the competition, and other materials, please visit the IPRO Ethics Bowl website.

For more information, please contact Kelly Laas at

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ethics Bowl National Championship

Please come and join us in Cincinnati, Ohio to watch the National Championship of the APPE International Ethics Bowl!

This past fall and winter, over 100 teams from around the United States and Canada participated in ten different regional competitions. On March 4th, the top 32 teams will be competing in a series of matches, discussing cases that raise 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.) For more information about the Ethics Bowl, please visit the Ethics Bowl home page maintained by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.

All teams will compete in a series of three matches in the morning from 9-1, and the top eight scoring teams will continue on to a series of elimination rounds in the evening, from 6-10 p.m. You are invited to come and watching any and all of the matches. The National Championship will be taking place in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, 35 West Fifth Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. Please visit the Ethics Bowl Information Desk when you arrive at the hotel to find out in what rooms the teams are competing.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Senior Fellow Michael Davis to give lecture, "Why You Have a Duty to Pay Even Higher Income Taxes."

Michael Davis, senior fellow at the Center for Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology, will share his thoughts on the topic at a special lecture hosted by California State University, Bakersfield’s Kegley Institute of Ethics on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7:00 p.m. His talk will present the argument, "Why you have a duty to pay even higher income taxes."

For more information, please visit the article appearing in the Kern Valley Sun from January 19, 2010.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Recent Biomedical Ethics Case

An article in the January 15th edition of the New York Times caught our director's eye recently. It describes a recent lawsuit filed by a former medical device executive who blew the whistle on his company Guidant after the company had for years told him to market stents that had been approved to treat digestive tract cancers to treat blood vessels in other parts of the body. These devices (called biliary stents), which have only approved by the FDA for use in the digestive tract, have not been approved for these other, off-label uses. Studies have shown that injury or death can occur in patients as result of device malfunctions when the stents were used off-label.

Click here to read the fully article, "Lawsuit Challenges Marketing of Stents" by Barry Meier. New York Times. January 14, 2010

"Ethics in the Details" in IIT Magazine

Michael Davis, senior fellow of the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, appears in the winter 2010 issue of the IIT Magazine in an article discussing the "Ethics in the Details" project, a effort that seeks to integrate ethics into the graduate engineering curriculum through low-dose mini lessons by changing existing technical problems to include an ethical element. This project is generously funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Click here to read the full article from IIT Today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

American Sociological Association - Teaching Ethics Throughout the Curriculum

The American Sociological Association's Task Force on Teaching Ethics has developed a web resource dedicated to help sociology faculty with teaching students about professional ethics from early in their undergraduate careers all the way through graduate school.

Teaching Ethics throughout the Curriculum consists of case studies, discussion questions, bibliographies, and web links that can be quickly downloaded or printed for use in sociology classrooms or by department chairs. It is a very good resource for faculty interested in new cases to use for discussing the American Sociological Association's Code of Ethics, or for students or practitioners interested in the kinds of ethical issues that come up in the daily research and practice of sociologists.