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Ethics in Science Summer Program
Summer research students and faculty mentors from the chemistry REU program participate in weekly Ethics in Science discussions. Video vignettes from the "Integrity in Scientific Research" series developed by the American Association for the Advancement in Science are viewed and provide the basis of discussions. The videos dramatize realistic situations that raise ethical issues in research, but leave the participants' dilemmas unresolved. The students and faculty are challenged to define the ethical problems, identify the correlated options and assess those options in light of their own experience. An ethical decision-making framework developed by our Markkula Center for Applied Ethics is used to help with this process. The main goals of the discussions are to help students develop the ability to identify when a research issue is an ethical one, the knowledge and skills needed to perform an ethical analysis, and an appreciation of different ethical perspectives. A side benefit of the meetings is that we discuss how scientific research is actually done: how laboratories are run, who funds scientific research, the peer review process, and many other important topics.
In addition to the weekly ethics meetings, REU groups in past years have taken field trips highlighting ethics in science. For example, in 2003, we took a trip to Affymetrix, which has a corporate ethics facilitator who introduced us to the issues faced by biotechnology companies.
One of the highlights of the Ethics program in 2000 was a self-motivated project in which the REU students wrote, directed, and acted in their own ethics video, which involved a graduate student teaching assistant facing the ethical dilemma of whether to date one of his own students. The students ran the last ethics meeting of that year, using their own video as the basis for discussion.