Tuesday, December 18, 2012

CSEP Winter Break Schedule

The Center for the Study in the Professions will be closed December 24-January 1st during IIT's winter break. We will resume normal hours (9-5, Mon-Fri) on January 2nd.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Journalism Ethics: New York Post Photographer Takes Picture of Man on Subway Tracks

Yesterday, December 4th, a New York Post freelance reporter, R. Umar Abbasi shot an incredible photograph of  Ki-Suck Han, a man who had just been pushed onto the subway tracks at New York's Times Square Station.  The photograph shows Han facing the oncoming train, reaching up to the platform but unable to get off the tracks. The New York Post published the photograph on its front page, accompanied by the headline, "Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die." 

Now, the incident has sparked a national debate, not only about why no one standing near Mr. Han tried to help him, but also about the ethics of taking and publishing this kind of photo.

Mr. Abbasi has defended his actions saying that he kept taking flash pictures in an effort to warn the train driver to stop in time. "It all went so quickly; from the time I heard the shouting until the time the train hit the main was about 22 seconds."

What do you think? Regardless of the actions of the photographer, do you think the New York Post should have published this photograph on its front page? Did the publication of this photo somehow convey a message, or was it just published for its shock value to sell newspapers?

For more news and different viewpoints on this case,  check out the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Post  and the New York Times,

You may also want to look at media codes of ethics or take a look at a post from the Poynter Institute on the ethics of this case.,

Monday, December 3, 2012

Congratuations to IIT's Ethics Bowl Team!

On December 1st, IIT’s Ethics Bowl Team participated in the Upper Midwest’s Regional Ethics Bowl at Loyola’s Watertower Campus in Chicago. The team competed against 17 teams from 14 schools around the Midwest, answering questions from a panel of judges about a collection of cases the students have been discussing since the beginning of the semester. The team won two of the four matches they participated in, and of the two teams who scored higher than IIT, both are part of the only four teams who were able to go on to the National Competition The IIT team members are: Ed Feibel (senior, architecture), Kari Finseth (senior, architecture), Alexis Renk (sophomore, biomedical engineering), and Tom Waller (junior, biomedical engineering). The coach is Stephen Harris, Sawyier Predoctoral Fellow in Philosophy, and assistant coaches  Kelly Laas, Librarian of the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, and Rui Chen a first year graduate student in information technology and management.

The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl is an academic competition with rules and procedures designed to model the best approaches to reasoning about practical and professional ethics. Created and developed by IIT Philosophy Professor Robert Ladenson, the IEB has spread to include well over 120 teams from all over the Unites States and Canada. 

Congratulations to IIT’s Ethics Bowl Team for all of their dedication and teamwork this semester, and an incredible performance on Saturday! The team will have its first meeting next semester on January 14th during lunch in Siegel Hall Room 218 to informally discuss the cases from the National Ethics Bowl, and begin planning for next year’s competition. If you are interested in being a part of Ethics Bowl, please send an email to iitethicsbowl@gmail.com.

Monday, November 26, 2012

IIT Ethics Bowl competing in Upper Midwest Ethics Bowl, December 1st.

Come support the IIT Ethics Bowl team as they compete in the Upper Midwest Regional Ethics Bowl Competition on December 1st at Loyola's Watertower campus from 9:30 to 5. The team, who has been debating a series of ethics case studies since the beginning of the semester will be competing against 18 other teams from the Midwest.

Check out CSEP's Ethics Bowl website for more information.

CSEP Senior Fellow Michael Davis quoted in Forbes

CSEP Senior Fellow Dr. Michael Davis was mentioned in a recent article in Forbes Magazine called, "Memo to New SEC Chief: Ask the FAA How to Stop the Next Flash Crash." The article cites Davis's recent article in Science and Engineering Ethics discussing ethics and high frequency trading.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Privacy and the Professional Librarian in an Age of Social Media

One of my colleagues at Galvin just sent a me really interesting article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, "As Libraries Go Digital, Sharing of Data Is at Odds With Tradition of Privacy."  The article discusses the the growth of social media use in libraries and how this culture of sharing personal information comes into conflict with librarians' tradition of protecting patrons' privacy. 
This tradition, which grew out of incidents in the 70's and 80's where the FBI tried to figure out what scholars were studying by getting library clerks to reveal the reading habits of their patron,  led to the passage of laws in may states to protect this data. Librarians' commitment to protect the confidentiality of patron information has been in the American Library Association's Code of Ethics since 1939, and this commitment has only become more strongly voiced over time, with the 2008 code stating, " We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or recevied and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted," in article 3 of the code. 

However, as anyone who has walked in to Galvin or another library knows, the use of social media is spreading, from the use of Twitter to connect with students and to share new book purchases, to allowing users to add their own tags to materials in the online catalog. If librarians did end up using patron information in the same way that Amazon or Google did, librarians could develop exciting new search  features that go far beyond showing what books and articles other scholars researching your topic have consulted, and who knows what else. 

Many libraries, as the article points out, have contractual agreements with Amazon that allow library users with a Kindle to check out books for free, and Amazon keeps track of what these patrons check out. So how far can we go in sharing user information when we have the aim of improving the library user experience? I librarians' dedication to  article 3 of ALA's Code of Ethics outdated, or is this a standard we should continue to uphold?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Presidential Campaign and Online Information about You

Companies use your online searching history to personalize the adds that show up in Google and the New York  Times, and now, the Romney and Obama campaigns are doing the same, reports Charles Duhigg of the New York Times on October 13th. According to the article, the campaigns are mining data on individuals, and then are using this data to try and get voters to the polls. In the weeks before the election, millions of voters will get calls from volunteers who will be guided by scripts with detailed information about your life. They will ask questions about how you are planning on spending election day, how you plan on getting to the nearest polling station near you, etc. Later that week, you might find that someone has divulged information about how frequently you or your neighbors have voted in the past. The  thought is (and research backs this up), if you are asked questions about voting, or know that your neighbor or friend is going to go and vote, you might be motivated to also get to the polls on election day.

In the article, both campaigns emphasized their dedication to voter's privacy, but consultants to both campaigns said they had bought demographic data from companies that study details like voter's shopping histories, dating preferences ,and financial problems, put cookies on voters' computers to see what kind of websites they visit, and examine exchanges on social networks to see what issues they care about.

This kind of data mining is not new, just new to presidential campaigns. But it does raise some more interesting ethical questions about if this kind of data should be harvested and used for these kinds of purposes. Is this use better that using it for marketing purposes? Worse? The same? Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Ethics Case for Sports Professionals...

We have been following the story for a few days now and thought it might be an interesting case for the blog.

According to a story on NPR on October 5, American speedskater Simon Cho has admitted to yielding to pressure from his coach, Jae Shu Chun, and tampering with another skater's blades at the World Short  Track Team Championships in Poland earlier this year.  Cho won a bronze medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and is now the world champion in the 500 meter short track event.

Cho claims that Jae Su Chun, the head coach of the U.S. Speedskating short track team, approached him at the March 2011 championship event in Poland and asked him to tamper with a Canadian rival's skates. Cho alleges that he refused to a number of times before he finally relented.

The article goes on to describe charges of physical, psychological, and verbal abuse that have been lodged against Coach Chun by current and former speedskaters from the U.S. team, and the power that a coach has over their athletes.

If  these allegations are proven to be correct, what kind of punishment do you think would be fair for Coach Jae Shu Chun? And perhaps more interesting, what, if any kind of punishment should Simon Cho face, remembering that he came forward on his own and admitted his wrongdoing, and taking into account the pressure he faced from his coach?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Study Shows that Many Science Faculty Have Subtle Gender Biases and Favor Male Students

The New York Times on Monday reported on a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that science faculty exhibit a bias against female students that could contribute to the gender disparity in this field. The researchers interviewed 127 science faculty and asked them to rate a student with either a male or female name for a laboratory management position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more qualified for the position then the identical female applicant, and selected a higher starting salary, $26,508 for the female student, and $30,328 for the male student.. Both female and male faculty were found to exhibit bias against the female students, and the bias had no relation to the faculty's age, sex, teaching field or tenure status. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

IIT Ethics Bowl Team

IIT's Ethics Bowl team is meeting  Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:50-1:40 in Siegal Hall to discuss the cases for the APPE Regional Ethics Bowl on December 2, 2012 at Loyola University. If you are interested in joining our discussions, feel free to stop by!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What impact should biological tests have on the sentencing of criminals?

In the August 17th edition of Science Magazine an article reports on an interesting study done by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. In the study, 181 state trial judges were asked to review the details of mock case and were asked to imagine how they would rule in a sentencing hearing.  In the case, the imaginary Jonathan Donahue is convicted of beating the manager of a fast food restaurant so badly that he is left brain damages. The details of the case make it clear that Mr. Donahue is a textbook psychopath. All of the judges who participated in the study read testimony from a psychiatrist who testified that Donahue had been diagnosed as a psychopath. However, some of these judges also read testimony from a neurobiologist who presents results of a genetic test that Donahue possessed a specific genetic variant linked to violent behavior.

The judges who read this biological explanation of why Donahue may have behaved in this way handed out moderately smaller sentences, 13 years, as compared with judges who only saw the testimony from the psycholgist, who game Donahue 14 years. The authors of this study concluded that the introduction of expert testimony giving a biological explanation for behaviors can be a "double-edged sword in the courtroom."  They could either be seen as evidence that a defendant is hard-wired for bad behavior and destined to re-offend, or it could be seen as evidence that the defendant's behavior was out of his control.

Should genetic tests and brain scans that show biological factors for individuals' behavior be allowed as evidence in sentencing hearings of this kind?

In Mock Case, Biological Evidence Reduces Sentences by Greg Miller. Science Magazine. Vol. 377, no. 6096. p. 788.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Discover IIT Days

Know a high school student who might be interested in attending the Illinois Institute of Technology? Urge them and their parents to attend Discover IIT Days on August 4, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 pm. Students will get a tour of the campus, information on academic programs and campus life, as well as information about the admission and financial air process.

You can find out more information and register Discover IIT here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What Limits Are Needed for Research Involving Highly Infectious Viruses?

Back in January of 2012, a number of top influenza researchers agreed to a voluntary moratorium on any research involving contagious, lab-altered forms of one strain of bird flu. This week, a number of flu researchers are meeting in New York for the annual conference of the U.S. government-funded Centers for Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. One part of the agenda for this conference will be to discuss  if the moratorium should be lifted, or if it should stay in place.

Some scientists and researchers are concerned that if mutant bird flu viruses somehow got out of the lab, they could cause a devastating pandemic. Others argue that lifting this ban is crucial to making sure that public health officials are reading for any possible threat of a flu pandemic that might emerge naturally, as bird flu viruses mutate in the wild.

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Institutes of Health will be watching and and participating in the conversation about what should be done about overseeing research involving high-risk pathogens. To read more, check out NPR's article, "Bird Flu Researchers To Meet About Research Moratorium" from  July 24, 2012.

The World Health Organization will also be having an open meeting sometime next year on these issues, and has recently released some guidelines on what kinds of risk-control measures should be used by labs researching mutant bird flu viruses.

Are these kinds of voluntary guidelines enough, or do international governments need to step in and provide some oversight when research involves the use of highly contagious viruses? Or, should it be up to the scientific community to decide when research of this kind should continue, and what kinds of limitations should be put in place to protect the public?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Japan Commission finds Fukushima a "profoundly man-made disaster"

The Japanese government's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission concluded in a report released last week that the nuclear incident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant was a "profoundly man-made disaster," rather than a result of a natural disaster.

The earthquake of March 2011 which hit at a magnitude of 9.0, was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, as well as one of the most powerful earthquakes ever measured. It sent a 133 foot tsunami crashing onto the coast that killed over 15,000 people and triggered the chain of events leading to the nuclear disaster.

The commission found that the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)  had many opportunities for taking preventative measures prior to when the earthquake and tsunami hit.   The commission criticized TEPCO as being too quick to dismiss earthquake damage as a cause of the fuel meltdowns at three of  of the plant's six reactors, which overheated when the site lost power. TEPCO has contended that the plant withstood the earthquake, and instead placed the blame on the tsunami  that followed. TEPCO executives that the earthquake followed by the huge tsunami was beyond the scope of contingency planning.

According to the commission, the Fukushima nuclear incident shows the danger of "regulatory capture" in which a government agency acts on behalf of the industry it tries to oversee instead of representing  the public interest. The Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, part of the economy industry that promotes nuclear energy, allowed TEPCO to delay upgrades and ignore problems, the report found. The report  faults the Japanese nuclear industry and regulators for not learning lessons from Three Mile Island or the Chernobyl disaster  in the Ukraine, and also cites lack of communication between scientists and the government in sharing information that could help improve the safety of Japanese nuclear plants.

The commission ended its report by calling for the creation of an independent and professional nuclear regulatory body to help build a stronger safety culture in the Japanese nuclear industry.

Read more:

Tabuchi, Hiroko. "Inquiry Declares Fukushima Crisis a Man-Made Disaster." New York Times. July 5. 2012
"Official Fukushima Report  Blames Japanese Culture, Not Nuclear Power". The Atlantic. July 11, 2012
Normile, Dennis. "Commission Spreads Blame for 'Manmade' Disaster." Science Magazine. July 13, 2012.

The Legacy of Henrietta Lacks

What kind of control should individuals have of tissue samples from their own bodies?

Henrietta Lacks is arguably one of the most famous individuals in this debate. In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore created the first immortal cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black women with cervical cancer. That young woman was Henrietta Lacks. The cells taken from her, called  HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research. Henrietta Lacks never knew that her doctor had taken a piece of her tumor without her consent, and she and her family received no benefits or recognition for her contribution to the medical science field. 25 years after her death, Mrs. Lacks' family found out what was  being done with the cells, and launched a campaign to get some of what they were owed financially.

A books was published in 2010 by Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, that does an excellent job exploring the story. Part of the proceeds of her book went to set up the Henrietta Lacks Foundation whose mission is to provide financial assistance to individuals who have made important contributions to scientific research without personally benefiting from their contributions, particularly contributions made to research without their knowledge and consent.

Do we own our own tissues after they are removed from our body? If so, then it seems reasonable that we should expect to have some say in how they are used and have the right to demand payment when a profitable discovery derives from them. Or, if we can't treat tissues samples from our own body as property, what other rights do we have, and kinds of obligations do researchers have to tissue donors?

For more information, see:

Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Crown Publishers, 2010.

Troug, Robert D., Aaron S. Kellselheim, and Steven Joffe. "Paying Patients for Their Tissue: The Legacy of Henrietta Lacks. Science Magazine. 337(6090) 37-38. July 6, 2012. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6090/37.full?sid=b30262f0-c4d4-44e9-a4e4-2515e9234841

Ziellinski, Sarah. "Henrietta Lacks' 'Immortal' Cells". Smithsonian.com. January 22, 2010. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Henrietta-Lacks-Immortal-Cells.html

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Animal Welfare: When is Regulation Needed?

Back in February, NPR reported on an agreement reached by Gene Gregory, the president of the United Egg Producers, and Wayne Pacelle, the president of the U.S. Humane Society, to lobby for new rules for egg farmers which would require them to provide larger cages for egg-producing chickens, along with perches and nest-boxes. The compromise came after years of bitter argument about the practice of crowding chickens into wire cages.

Now, the compromise is under attack, not by egg farmers, but by America's hog and beef producers. The National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association are lobbying against any kind of regulation because they fear that it might turn into a slippery slope. If Congress passes regulation that makes it mandatory for farmers to follow new laws for the housing of chickens, the next step might be new regulation that mandates the living conditions of hogs and cattle. 

That National Pork Producer's Council has called the egg legislation a "Federal Farm Takeover Bill" and has been lobbying Republican members of congress, saying that the new bill is likely to lead to higher prices for eggs.  And it looks as if organizations who oppose the bill are winning. The egg producers and the Humane Society had hoped to attach their proposal to the farm bill which is currently making its way through congress. The Senate has not brought up this proposal for a vote however. Its best chance, some analysts say, might be after elections are held in November. 

Meanwhile, one hopes that this partnership between United Egg Producers and the Humane Society will bear fruit, and even be emulated in other areas where the welfare of animals is under debate. 

For more information, check out NPR's article from June 11, "U.S. Pig and Cattle Producers try to Crush Egg Bill."

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Books to Check Out

CSEP Library has just gotten a large batch of news books in that are available to check out...too many to list, but here are some of the highlights.

Engineers of Revolutionary Russia: Iurii V. Lomonsov (1876-1952) and the Railways by Anthony Heywood

Hold Paramount: The Engineer's Responsibility to Society by P. Aarne Vesilind and Alastair S. Gunn. (2nd ed)

Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk by James Bessen and Michael J. Meurer

The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics by George G. Brenkert and Tom L. Beauchamp

We should be getting another batch in early July, so please be sure to check back for the new titles!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Informed Consent & Use of Information for Other Purposes

A recent article in Nature by Ericka  Check Hayden talks about some of the problems that can come up in the informed consent process when participants in research don't feel very informed by the process. In an age where data about individuals is getting gathered and used on am much larger basis,  participants in research and the researchers themselves are often not entirely clear about how data may be used in the future, or if this data will remain protected. With all this confusion, some people are less willing to participate in research than they used to be, and researchers often feel confused about how they should approach this issue.

So what should we do? The article discusses some better potential models for consent, including the potential for new technology that will allow participants to control and track how their data is used.

Let us know what you think! How can the informed consent process catch up to the reality of research today?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Boeing Scholars Academy Ethics Bowl - July 5th, 1:30-5 pm

On July 5th, 100 high school students will be participating in the second annual Boeing Scholars Academy Ethics Bowl as part of the Boeing Scholars Academy summer program. During the afternoon, teams of students will discuss a series of two cases directly related to this summer’s theme, “local action, broader impact.” The ethics cases studies were developed based on ideas from a brainstorming session held with Boeing Scholars Academy students on June 19th, and center around the issues of social media, the ethical gathering and use of data, and issues of public health and environmental sustainability.

In an ethics bowl competition, a moderator poses questions to teams of students based on cases they have read and discussed. A panel of judges then evaluates the answers based on the following criteria; intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness.  The Ethics Bowl competition was first started by Dr. Robert Ladenson at IIT in 1993, and has grown in popularity ever since, now encompassing the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl in which over 132 teams of undergraduate students around the U.S. compete in, as well as the newly formed National High School Ethics Bowl which will be holding its first national competition in Chapel Hill in April of 2013.  

The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions has been working closely with Boeing Scholars Academy program staff to organize this event.  We have a number of distinguished judges who have volunteered to be a part of this event, including Ethics and Compliance Officers from a number of major Chicago-area companies, IIT faculty, and students from IIT’s Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl team. We look forward to an exciting and thought-provoking afternoon, and invite everyone to come and watch the fun!  The competition will be held in the E-1 building from 2:45-3:45 pm, and signs will be posted showing participants and visitors where to go. For more information, please email Kelly Laas at laas@iit.edu

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Women in Science

The latest edition of Science Careers, focuses on women in science- namely how far we have come, and the places where we still have a ways to go. I was also interested in the review of  Breaking into the Lab: Engineering Progress for Women in Science, which I shall be ordering for the library shortly. 

Summer Hours

The CSEP Library will be open Monday-Friday, 9-5 during the summer session. As we are involved in a number of summer programs, please call or email if you would like to schedule a reference interview, though you can get access to the library by stepping into room 204 across the highway if the library is closed when you come by.

Friday, May 4, 2012

C2ST Event: Women in Science Symposium May 11-12, 2012

Women in Science 2012: Big Ideas Big Impact, builds on the successful 2010 Women in Science: Building an Identity, during which more than 200 women scientists attended an exciting day of plenary talks,
panel discussions and breakout sessions.
Specifically the Women in Science Symposium 2012 will focus on:
    • Highlighting innovative, game-changing women in diverse science and engineering fields
    • Discussing modern approaches to research practice, work-life balance, entrepreneurship and        administration
    • Providing meaningful opportunities for discourse and networking
Who should attend? This event will convene women scientists and engineers interested in sharing ideas and learning from leading women in –
academia, industry, government, business and the nonprofit sectors – to share ideas and experiences critical for the 21st century.
Friday, May 11, 2012
School of the Art Institute of Chicago; 112 S. Michigan Avenue – 1st Floor Ballroom
           5:30PM – 7:00PM Reception & Registration
           7:00pm – Key Note Speaker – Alice Huang Senior Faculty Associate in Biology at            the California Institute of Technology, and Past President of the American            Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
           RSVP required
           Google Map
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Northwestern University –Lurie Medical Center; 303 E Superior St., Chicago, IL
           8:30am – 9:30am Registration & Continental Breakfast
           9:30am – 4:00pm Full-Day Symposium
           RSVP required
Registration fees. Options to attend one or both days.
Student: Friday $25 / Saturday $75 / Friday & Saturday $100
General: Friday $50 / Saturday $100 / Friday & Saturday $150
Discounted parking will be made available at the 222 E. Huron St. garage: Parking Map

CSEP Hours & Thanks

CSEP will be open its normal hours 9-5, Monday -Friday during the summer, so please feel free to stop in and use our resources. 

The IIT Ethics Bowl team just had its final meeting over dinner last night and talked philosophy and summer plans. We will be meeting again during the fall semester, and shall be diving directly into preparing for the regional competition. If you are interested in joining the ethics bowl, or just attending a meeting or two to see what its all about, please send an email to cseplibrary@iit.edu, and we can add you to our listserv, over which we shall be making plans for the upcoming semester. 

Congratulations to our graduating students, and for all of you taking off for the summer, safe travels and have a relaxing break! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Latest from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill...U.S. arrests BP engineer on criminal charges stemming from oil spill


According to the Washington Post, a former BP Engineer was arrested today for destroying a number of text messages sought by federal investigators who are investigating the BP oil spill of April 20, 2010. BP has stated that it repeatedly notified engineer Kurt Mix that he should preserve all evidence from the event, and that he disregarded these notices. But his actions do raise some questions about

After the blowout on BP's Macondo well, Mr. Mix worked to estimate the amount of oil leaking from the well as well as BP's failed effort to plug the leak, nicknamed Top Kill.. Around October 4, 2010, when Mix learned that his electronic files were going to be collected by a vendor working for BP's lawyers, he deleted a number of  text message from his IPhone between himself and his supervisor. The Justice Department alleges that, judging from some of the deleted texts recovered forensically, the messages contained information that showed that Mix and others at BP knew that the Top Kill effort was likely to fail. Before the Top Kill effort, Mix and other engineers had concluded that this approach was likely to fail if the flow rate was greater than 15,000 barrels a day. In his text messages, Mix reports that the flow rate was indeed too high for Top Kill to work.  At this same time,  BP was reporting that the flow was about 5,000 barrels a day, though in the end federal regulators estimated that the flow was closer to 50,000 barrels a day.

It is hard to know why Kurt Mix decided to delete these text messages even after receiving notices to be sure and preserve any digital evidence related to the spill, but it does raise some interesting questions about how much BP knew about the rate of oil flow during this time, and what it was actually reporting to regulators and the public.  It also highlights some of the responsibilities of engineers when working within a large organization, and what to, and not to do, in these kinds of situations..

Thursday, April 12, 2012

C2ST Event : Oceans’ Health: An Ecosystem on the Brink

The Chicago Council on Science and Technology and the John G. Shedd Aquarium present:
Oceans’ Health: An Ecosystem on the Brink
When: Thursday, April 19, 2012. 5:00pm Registration & Reception, 6:00pm Presentation
Where: Northwestern University Chicago Campus, Hughes Auditorium, 303 East Superior
Who: Allen LaPointe, Vice President of Environmental Quality, John G. Shedd Aquarium and Kassia Perpich, Sustainable Seafood Manager, John G. Shedd Aquarium
Abstract: There are many serious threats facing our oceans today. Oceans’ Health: An Ecosystem on the Brink will explore two of these merging issues. First, ocean acidification: over the last decade scientists have shown that human-caused increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are affecting the chemistry of our oceans, altering the main food web and proving harmful for many forms of marine life. Second, commercial fishing: in recent years scientists have also estimated that the global supply of wild-caught seafood will run out by the year of 2048 unless stronger fishery management practices are implemented. Join C2ST and leading area marine scientists as they discuss these two ocean issues and what we as consumers can do to have a positive impact in addressing them
Nonmember Fees: $10 Advance Registration / $15 Door / $5 Student. Please visit www.c2st.org for registration and detailed program description
Parking: Discounted parking will be made available at the 222 E. Huron St. garage.

At the Center we spent time in all of our engineering ethics sessions thinking about how man-made systems impact the environment over the short and long term, and how these effects can be prevented or at least mitigated. Its likely that both consumers and engineers are and will in the future be involved in finding solutions to these issues, so check it out !

Monday, April 9, 2012

IIT Ethics Bowl Open Meeting, April 11th

Join the IIT Ethics Bowl for our Meet and Greet meeting on April 11, in Siegel Hall at 12:40.

Come and discuss interesting cases, meet new people, and learn more about how to be part of the Ethics Bowl team for the fall 2012 semester.

We will also be providing free pizza for all who attend.

Please RSVP if you plan on joining us at iitethicsbowl@gmail.com.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

C2ST Event, March 29th - China's Clean Energy

Chicago Council on Science and Technology presents:


Thursday, March 29, 2012
Northwestern University, Hughes Auditorium
303 East Superior, Chicago
5:00pm Registration & Reception
6:00pm Program

Speakers: Mr. Jianye Cao, Conselor and Director of Science & Technology Office and Mr. Qingqing Zhao, Consul at The Consulate General of The People's Republic of China in Chicago

Diplomats of the Chinese Consulate General in Chicago will discuss China’s current research and development program to produce energy in an environmentally benign fashion. The discussion will cover Chinese activities in the alternative energy arena including hydro, nuclear, wind, solar, clean coal and other green energy production endeavors. The program will also highlight China’s objectives and efforts to reduce CO2 emissions by 2020 as well as China – US intergovernmental cooperation in clean energy production, particular attention paid to collaborative activities in the Greater Chicago area.

Nonmember Fees: $10 Advance Reg / $15 Door / $5 Student
Parking: Discounted parking will be made available at the 222 E. Huron St. garage
General Info: Please visit www.c2st.org for detailed program description and registration. 

What kinds of online information should an employer have access to?

I was sitting having dinner yesterday when a story on NPR made me pause. Robert Collins was re-applying for his job with the Maryland Department of Corrections after taking a leave of absence, and during the interview he was asked for his Facebook username and password. The interviewer told him that this had become a part of the interview process because they had become concerned that some staff may have gang affiliations, and these ties had led to gang infiltration in its facilities.

Collins gave the interviewer the information requested and the interviewer looked over his profile with the screen facing away from Collins. Since then, the Maryland has suspended the practice and changed its policy so that is no longer mandatory for job applicants to supply their Facebook username and password. Collins and the  American Civil Liberties Union are now working with state legislators to pass a bill that would prevent employers from even requesting that kind of information.

Facebook profiles fall somewhere in the middle of the public/private divide.  On one hand, most students I have talked to seem to take it for granted that any employer is likely to do a Google search of them before they are hired, and if they left their Facebook profile settings as public, then it is fair game. In a recent discussion about an ethics bowl case with IIT's ethics bowl team, however, many students took a different view, arguing that in a job interview an applicant should have a chance to put their best face forward, and employers should not be digging into an applicants personal life that happens away from the office.

This case, of course, goes a step farther. While a Facebook profile seems not to be as private as, say, a phone conversation, allowing a prospective employer to access your account seems to in some way violate not only your own privacy but also all your Facebook friends' privacy, as the majority may have their profile set to be viewed only by other Facebook friends.

Should this kind of practice be banned for all employers, or is it just an extension of the more routine online search that is already being performed by many companies?

When interviewing for a position that normally requires background checks or involves some level of security clearance, are practices such as this allowable?

What do you think?

 "A Job at What Cost? When Employers Log in to Dig In" NPR, All TecConsidered Blog . Interview by Robert Siegel, Article by Dana Farrington. March 21, 2012.

Monday, March 12, 2012

C2ST Event : About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang

C2ST asked us to share info about this event with our readers, it should be an interesting time!

The Chicago Council on Science and Technology presents:
About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang
Northwestern University Chicago Campus,
Hughes Auditorium,
303 East Superior
Friday, March 16, 2012
11:30 am Registration & Box Lunch
12:30 pm Presentation

Speaker: Adam Frank, Author & Assistant Professor of Astrophysics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester, NY.

According to astrophysicist Adam Frank, specific human conceptions of time don’t last forever and our “modern” version is already in the midst of a radical change. In his new book, About Time, Dr. Frank argues that new ideas in cosmology are pushing the revolution in time to its final stage.

Just as a “clockwork universe” followed the invention of the clock 500 years ago, scientists are now moving beyond the Big Bang to talk about universes built from information pushing time into mind-boggling new territory. Imagine: An eternal “multi-verse” made of infinite, parallel universes with infinite versions of you, lots of little bangs but no big bang beginning, a string theory universe in 10 dimensions of ever-repeating cycles, or a universe where time doesn’t exist at all. It’s impossible to say which of these new ideas will become the foundation for a new time because the science is still in flux. We do know we’re living at the twilight of the Big Bang. It’s the end of time as we know it now and as we live it now.

Fees: $20 with Boxed Lunch (limited supply) / Free General Admission without lunch
General Info: Discounted parking will be made available at the 222 E. Huron St. garage. For detailed program information and registration visit www.c2st.org. For additional information call 312-567-5835.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ethics News: Google's new privacy policy renews debate on internet privacy

After an extremely interesting ethics bowl with IPRO 312, where a number of students filled me in on some of the more disturbing developments surrounding the that status of online privacy (or lack of it)   I decided to to a bit more investigating about Google's new privacy policy. Most of us who use one or more of Google's applications such as Gmail  have received some notice about the changes the company plans to make to their policy. We have certainly been given advance warning. And Google provides some great free services for users, for which we give them the right to use our personal information and display personalized ads based on   this information. But have you stopped to actually read and think about how much control you actually have over the use of this information, and what the implications of this new privacy policy might be? As many universities like IIT are now relying more and more on Google to take care of our daily calendars, student email, and the like, what are the privacy implications for our students, staff and faculty?

There are ways to opt out of allowing Google to use this data, and I don't think I am going to relinquish my use of Gmail anytime soon. But it does raise some questions about how much privacy we are willing to let go of so companies like Google can make our Web experience more personalized.

Certainly the EU and the U.S. Congress are weighing in. Earlier this month the European Union's data protection authorities released a letter asking Google to delay the their new policy until they had verified that it does not break the block EU data protection allows. Google responded that it had briefed data protection agencies beforehand and had heard of no substantial concerns. Today, France's CNIL (Commission nationale de l'informatique et des liberteshas stated that the policy appears to violate EU data protection laws, and has reiterated the earlier request to delay the policy.

 In the U.S.  legislation  that would have potentially stopped the efforts of Web companies to collect consumer fell short of doing so. After years of negotiation, a set of privacy guidelines were unveiled on February 23 that urged Web companies to install "do not track" technology on browsers but fell short of requiring it. The guidelines urge for more transparency and more user-control over their personal data, and a number of companies have agreed to follow these voluntary guidelines. 

Here are some resources to scan if you are interested in getting more information.

Google's information on changes to the privacy policy, including the new policy that will begin on March 1st, and the older version.

New York Time's Bits Blog on Google

PC Magazine on Google's new privacy policy, and how a recent study has shown that most users are still uninformed about how the changes will affect them.

What do you think? Do we have a responsibility to be an informed consumer in how we use the web, or do you think Web companies should go further in making their privacy policies more transparent? Or, should there be more legal limits on how companies can store and use our personal data?

Friday, February 17, 2012

When should we put limits on scientific research?

The scientific community is divided about what should be done about the report last month that flu researchers in the Netherlands and Wisconsin had created a version of the H5N1 virus that highly lethal and easily transmissible. The scientists involved have agreed to suspend their research for 60 days to give the international community time to discuss the ramifications of their work. Both Nature and Science Magazine have published a letter from the principal investigators of the two laboratories who were working on the modified virus on January 20th  discussing the positive health benefits that are likely to derive from their work and also acknowledging the fears and public debate prompted by their announcement.

Meanwhile, a closed-door meeting to discuss the controversial bird flu research has recently been held at the World Health Organization (WHO) to discuss the health and security risks posed by this type of research. Critics of the research worry that the newly created viruses might escape or be used as a bio weapon and potentially kill large numbers of people. Supporters of the research claim that the dangers of the engineered virus causing a pandemic are exaggerated due to the extreme safety measures being used in the labs, and that this type of research is essential to see how the bird flu circulating out in the wild might someday mutate and cause a pandemic.

The WHO meeting includes scientists whose labs are involved in the controversial research, other flu virologists, government officials, editors from science journals who wish to publish the results of the research, and one expert on research ethics. The WHO plans to release the results of the meeting after it has concluded.

For more information, see

Greenfield-Boyce, Nell. "Questions About Bird Flu Research Swirl Around Private WHO Meeting. January 17, 2012. National Public Radio.  http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/02/17/147018709/questions-about-bird-flu-research-swirl-around-private-who-meeting

Grady, Denise. "Scientists to Pause Research on Deadly Strain of Bird Flu" January 20, 2012. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/21/science/scientists-to-pause-research-on-deadly-strain-of-bird-flu.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=bird%20flu&st=cse.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nanotechnology: Small is Beautiful - February 23, 2012

Mark Ratner was one of the first scientists to begin seriously thinking and writing about the potential social and ethical implications of nanotechnology. We would recommend attending this talk! 

The Chicago Council on Science and Technology presents:

Nanotechnology: Small is Beautiful

When: Thursday, February 23, 2012; 5:00pm Registration & Reception; 6:00pm Program

Where: Northwestern University, Hughes Auditorium, 303 East Superior, Chicago, downtown campus

·         Mark A. Ratner, PhD., Professor and Chair, Department of Chemistry and CoDirector, Initiative for Sustainability and Energy, Northwestern University and
·         Milan Mrksich, PhD., Henry Wade Rogers Professor, Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University

Abstract: Nanoscale materials have a great potential for positive societal impact. For example synthesized nanoscale materials and systems can be used to create innovative applications and technologies that solve problems in the biological and medical sciences. This program will highlight the essentials of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology including its history, societal importance and future implications and will discuss the interplay between nanoscale structures, properties and functions.

Fees: $10 Advance Registration / $15 Door / $5 Student

General Info: Please visit www.c2st.org for detailed program description and registration. Discounted parking will be made available at the 222 E. Huron St. garage.

Also, be sure to check out CSEP's NanoEthicsBank for more material on the social and ethical implications of nanotechnology.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ethics News: With Tips From Whistle-Blowers, More Hands on Deck in Pollution Cases

An article in the New York Times discusses the recent trend of whistleblowers helping expose companies who illegally pollute- and in some cases receiving large cash bounties for their efforts. These individuals - who are often engineers or other employees of the polluting companies - have helped the federal government successfully pursue a growing number of cases in Baltimore and other port cities across the country.

Whistleblowers often face some form of retribution from companies who they report on. With this in mind, do you think it is ethical for whistleblowers to receive a monetary reward for their actions?

To read the full article please see:

Emery, Theo. "With Tips from Whistleblowers, More Hands on Deck in Pollution Cases." New York Times, February 13, 2012.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Screening of a new Film of the Cold Fusion Case..February 11th, 2012

A Chicago event worth attending....

137 Films in association with The Chicago Council on Science and Technology Present
‘a-work-in-progress' screening of
The Believers
Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Believers tells the strange story of Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, chronologically documenting the summer of 1989 as well as new developments today. The tale includes mystery, scandal, personal tragedy, and scientific wonder.

Understanding of events shifts depending on who is telling the story. A mixture of interviews, vérité footage, archival media, scientific animation, and reenactments will compliment interviews with scientists, journalists, politicians, and officials. Woven together, they paint a vivid, often contradicting account of what happened.
Where: Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 North State Street, Chicago
When: Saturday, February 11, 2012. 11:00am Registration; 12:00pm Screening
Who: Q&A with Clayton Brown, Interim Executive Director and Amy Ellison, Development Director at 137 Films
Fees: $15.00 non-members / $5.00 Students. Please visit www.c2st.org to register.
General Info: RSVP REQUIRED. Information on getting to the Film Center is available at: http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/content/visitorinfo

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Website Design!

CSEP has just launched the new and improved version of its website! Along with improving the navigability of the site, we have also launched an entirely new version of the Codes of Ethics Collection, which is fully searchable by keyword and indexed by a number of different subject terms. Please take some time to browse the site and give us your feedback.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Ethics of SOPA and PIPA

Watching the massive internet protest this past Wednesday on January 18th against the SOPA and PIPA bills being debated in Congress was an  interesting  experience, especially as a librarian who works in an ethics center.  I have discussed issues of intellectual property with students and faculty here at IIT enough to appreciate what an important commodity it is for the U.S. economy.   If some of the numbers being quoted by the Motion Picture Association of America are correct, than piracy costs the U.S. something like $58 billion annually. The entertainment industry may have had a major hand in writing this bill, but underlying intent make sense. We do need to find some effective means of protecting the legitimate intellectual property of U.S. companies and citizens. 

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the  Protect IP Act (PIPA) were proposed as a way to deal with foreign "rogue" websites who are offering pirated movies and music and counterfeit goods to U.S. consumers. The bills give the federal government expanded tools for pursuing websites that infringe on copyright, including getting ISPs to block access to suspect websites, restrict U.S. companies from selling adds to pirate sites, stop online companies from processing payments for illegal sales and keeping search engines from listing web sites suspected of piracy.

However, when you begin to read the vague wording of these these two bills, you can begin to see what the protest was about. Its not about taking away our free (and illegal) access to movies and music, but rather the potential impact these bills' may have on the the Internet as we know it. 

I would argue that any legislation passed needs to also protect the free speech and privacy of internet users. SOPA and PIPA, by allowing the Department of Justice to file cases in court that would lead to blocking access and cutting revenue sources for infringing web sites, puts U.S. in the same groups as the 13 other countries who require the government blocking of web sites.  The American Library Association has also raised some questions about how the bill might affect users' privacy in a message to their members, stating that  SOPA requirement that  internet companies to monitor internet traffic.."raises the significant likelihood of a 'chilling effect' on using the internet for commerce, communication, and participation in a democratic society."

Questions of what kind of jurisdiction the United States should have on the Internet also need to be addressed. Should we have the right to impose U.S. copyright law across the world? SOPA and PIPA have the potential to reach well beyond the borders of the United States, and any website with a domain name registered in the United States would be treated as if it were a U.S. page. 

The good news is that that Wednesday's protest seems to have had an effect and a new bill, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) is proposed as a potential alternative to SOPA and PIPA This bill would would allow copyright holders to complain to the U.S. International Trade Commission. This court has the authority to ban the import and sale of infringing material to U.S. consumers, though it would not have the authority to order ISPs to block accesses to infringing web sites. Perhaps a bill such as this will prove to be a better solution.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Are Chimpanzees Necessary for Biomedical Research?

In December 2011, the Institute of Medicine released a report that sought to assess the current and future necessity of using chimpanzees as a research model in publicly funded biomedical and behavioral research. In the past, the use of chimpanzees in research has lead to many advances in treating life-threatening diseases. However, as alternative research tools become available and public debate about the necessity of using chimpanzees in research, the National Institutes of Health in collaboration with the National Research Council, asked a committee of experts to conduct an in-depth analysis into the subject and to come back with their recommendations.

The committee's report does not endorse an outright ban on the use of chimpanzees in research, but instead establishes a uniform criteria to restrict use. These criteria for biomedical research are:

1. That the knowledge gained must be necessary to advance the public's health.
2. There must be no other research model by which the knowledge could be obtained, and the research cannot be ethically performed on human subjects; and
3. The animals used in the proposed research must be maintained either in ethologically appropriate physical and social environments or in natural habitats.

In the case of comparative genomics and behavioral research, the criteria limits studies that meet the following criteria.

1. Studies provide otherwise unattainable insight into comparative genomics, normal and abnormal behavior, mental health, emotion, or cognition, and
2. All experiments are performed on acquiescent animals, using techniques that are minimally invasive, and in a manner that minimizes pain and distress.

They also go add that animals used in behavioral or genomic research must also be maintained in appropriate physical and social habitats, as above. The report also discusses the types of current and future research in which it is necessary to continue using chimpanzees as models, including research on monoclonal antibodies, hepatitis C, and studying cognition.

What are your thoughts on the report? Do you think there should be an outright ban on the use of chimpanzees in research, or do agree with the committee, that such a ban would be a mistake? Do you agree with the criteria, or do you think that more or less restrictive measures should be put in place?

You can read a summary of the report, as well as find out more information about the IOM panel here.

Full report available at the National Academies Press web site.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Welcome Back!

Welcome back students for the Spring 2012 semester!

The Center has resumed its normal hours of Monday-Friday, 9-5. We welcome students, faculty and members of the IIT and Chicago community to come in and use our online and print collections.