Friday, January 28, 2011

Business Ethics Case Writing Competition

2011 Intercollegiate Business Ethics Case Competition: Qualifying Information

The 2011 Intercollegiate Business Ethics Case Competition (IBECC) will be held on September 21-22 at the Ethics & Compliance Officer Association's 2011 Annual Ethics & Compliance Conference in Bellevue, Washington (east of Seattle). IBECC is now jointly supported by Loyola Marymount University, the University of St. Thomas (MN) and the ECOA.

Current plans for selecting a field of 25 teams are as follows.

  • Five international teams will be invited directly by the Executive Committee.
  • Fifteen teams will be selected via three qualifying competitions this spring that we're in the process of trying to arrange for in different parts of the country.
  • Four "wild card" invitations. The Executive Committee is willing to accept applications from teams for whom the cost of travel to a qualifying competition is prohibitive.
  • As the winner of the 2010 IBECC in Anaheim, the University of St. Thomas automatically qualifies.

We hope to have three qualifying competitions in different parts of the country during the spring of 2011. There will definitely be one at LMU in Los Angeles, April 29-30. We are in discussion regarding additional competitions with the Warrington College of Business Administration at the University of Florida in Gainesville and with the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Assuming that all three eventuate, the top four teams from each qualifying competition will be invited to Bellevue. Also, in appreciation for the work involved, a team from the hosting institution will receive an invitation.

At present, there are no travel funds available to help with the cost of travel to the qualifying competitions. We hope to have a small amount to assist with travel to Bellevue. In recognition of the fact that some schools may find the cost of travel to a qualifying contest prohibitive, the Executive Committee will accept applications for four "wild card" slots. Interested teams will be asked to submit a video (including Q&A by judges) of their presentation.

Our goal is to have the field for IBECC set by June 1.

Schools that are considering participating should contact Thomas White as soon as possible (, 310-338-4523). Inquiries may also be sent to Kirsten Nordblom (, 310-338-2321).

Information about the competitions will be posted at as it becomes available.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Interdisciplinary Course To Be Offered in Fall 2011

Chemistry 597, offered in the autumn semester of 2010, is not what it appeared to be: just a chemistry research course. It is in fact a highly innovative, NSF-funded joint research course for PhD students in engineering, science, and science studies, that is, philosophy, history, and sociology of science. Building on this first offering, Chemistry 597 will be offered again in 2011-2012 and e in 2012-2013. Subtitled “Addressing Ethical Issues in the Natural Course of Research,” Chemistry 597 has other innovative features. The science studies students come from other local universities. The format consists of six seminars covering a series of topics, followed by a six week period of joint research across disciplinary boundaries. In the last week of the research period and the final three weeks of the semester, small student research groups present their research reports for critiquing by the instructors and the other students. Each student group includes at least one science or engineering student and one science studies student. The sustained critiquing is to help the students produce publishable papers.

The course is aimed to prepare students for multidisciplinary research, providing science studies students acquaintance with concrete details of scientific research and giving science and engineering students opportunities to grapple with issues, such as the range of values within science. The goal is to help students acquire a view of science, engineering, and science studies that makes the social and normative aspects of each an essential and valuable part of their understanding of their own respective disciplines and opportunities. The format of the first six seminars features lead-off presentations on the week’s readings followed by challenging discussion. After the first seminar led by the faculty, small cross-disciplinary groups of students take responsibility for the presentations and lead follow-up discussion. The readings are drawn from the writings of science studies scholars, scientists, and engineers, and the topics range from Diversity and Cooperation to Models and Causality. The faculty consists of Vivian Weil (PI), Sandra Bishnoi, and Eric Brey of IIT, philosopher of science Jordi Cat (CoPI) of Indiana University, and electrical engineer Alan Feinerman of UIC.

A final unusual feature of Chemistry 597 is an assessment of the concept, design, and implementation by an independent panel with expertise in science, engineering, and philosophy of science. Their assessment will inform the planning for the next offering. Additional details and information about applying for Chemistry 597can be obtained from Vivian Weil ( at the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trial By Twitter - Social media adds a new element to the peer review process.

We know that social media is finding its way into almost every part of our daily existence. A new article from Nature confirms this, discussing how researchers are increasingly taking to the web to critique newly published articles, sometimes mere hours after they are published. While this kind of public criticism has its good points, such as helping weed out sloppy work faster, it also raises a number of questions. How are authors suppose to respond to critiques come from all directions, or should the even respond at all to tweets and blog posts about their paper? Is this the proper forum for these kinds of discussions?

What are your thoughts on this? Does this kind of rapid response to published articles help or harm the peer review system? Is social media being embraced more quickly by some disciplines rather than others?

Mandavilli, Apoorva. "Trial by Twitter". Nature 469: 286-287.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Suspended Sentence for Organ Transplant

Just today, the Scott sisters, who had been imprisoned for 16 years after being convicted of armed robbery, were released by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour on the condition that 35 year old Gladys follow through on her offer to donate a kidney to 38 year old Jamie. Jamie Scott requires dialysis treatment at least three times a week ,and her health has been failing in the past few months. Governor Barbour said her acted in part out of concern over Jamie Scott's health, but also to relieve the state of the cost of her dialysis treatment, approximately $200,000 a year. The sisters were originally arrested on Christmas Eve 1993, and were convicted on charges that they led two men into an ambush, during which the men were robbed of about $11, according to the trial transcript. The NAACP has been a major player on behalf of the sisters' release, especially because of the nature of the sentence received for the crime they were charged with. However, some medical ethicists are concerned about the Governor's stipulation of making organ donation a condition of the Scott sisters' release, even though Gladys Scott has volunteered to do so.

Washington Post Article "Conditioned on kidney donation, sisters' prison release prompts ethics debate." December 30, 2010 by Krissah Thompson.

New York Times Article "Jailed Sisters Released for Organ Transplant." January 7, 2010 by Timothy Williams.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An Ethics Code of Academic Economists

A December 30th article from the New York Times reports that leaders of the American Economic Association, the world's largest professional society for economists, are considering adopting a code of ethics. This code, among other things, would seek to address questions about if economists should disclose who finances their research, if they should reveal which corporate clients they advise and consult, and if they should even be allowed to serve as corporate directors and officers, as many business and finance professors already do.

According to the article, the proposal to consider adopting a code of ethics was at least partly a response to the new documentary film "Inside Job" that criticizes leading academic economists for their ties to Wall Street as consultants, advisors or corporate directors.