Professional Ethics Report: Volume XXV, Number 4, Fall 2012

Professional Ethics Report Volume XXV, Number 4, Fall 2012Professional Ethics Report (PER), which has been in publication since 1988, reports on news and events, programs and activities, and resources related to professional ethics issues, with a particular focus on those professions whose members are engaged in scientific research and its applications.

Each quarterly issue is comprised of a cover story addressing one particular issue or event, sometimes written by an expert outside the AAAS; a series of timely, in the news stories; brief updates from the societies; and useful resources and announcements.

PER was first published on the web in the Spring of 1995. Archives of Professional Ethics Report are available here.


Volume XXV, Number 4, Fall 2012

[Download the PDF]

Cover Story

In the News

In the Societies

Resources

Announcements


Contirbuting Staff

  • Michael Bueno, Contributing author
  • Rebecca Carlson, Deputy Editor
  • Mark Frankel, Editor
  • C.K. Gunsalus, Contributing author
  • Hanbee O, Contributing author
  • Jessica Wyndham, Contributing author

To Subscribe: To receive electronic versions of PER, please subscribe by filling out this form: http://listserv.aaas.org/mailman/listinfo/per.

This newsletter may be reproduced without permission as long as proper acknowledgement is given. ISSN: 1045-8808


Cover Story

Introducing the Graduation Pledge Alliance

William J. Benet, PhD

Bill Benet is the Executive Director of the Graduation Pledge Alliance. He also is a Senior Fellow with the Bentley Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility at Bentley University, and an Adjunct Professor with the Social Economy Centre at the University of Toronto.

You have just graduated from college. You are young and bright. And you believe in the promise of America: That God gave each of us two hands to grab all we can with them. And so, when Environmental Pollutants & Death Rays Inc. offers you a job with a starting salary of $75,000 a year, six weeks vacation and your own car phone, you jump at it, right? Wrong. (Simon, 1987, p. A-1).

With those words, Roger Simon introduced the readers of the Chicago Tribune to the Graduation Pledge for Social and Environmental Responsibility (the Graduation Pledge). The Graduation Pledge was founded that year at Humboldt State University in northern California. Matt Nicodemus, a co-founder of the Pledge, was a faculty member at Humboldt State and self- described “full-time peace activist” (Simon, 1987, p. A-1). From its start at Humboldt State, Matt’s stated vision was that “colleges across America will be handing out the pledge and graduates will be adhering to it” (Simon, 1987, p. A-1).

Today, that vision is a reality and Matt is still a vital part of the Graduation Pledge Alliance, the coordinating body for schools across America and around the Globe where the Graduation Pledge has become an important part of the culmination of many students’ academic careers. Modified somewhat over the years, the Graduation Pledge now reads: “I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work” (Graduation Pledge Alliance, 2012b, p. 1).

William Ihne, another pledge co-founder while a student at Humboldt State, notes that the Graduation Pledge Alliance became a reality in 1988 when the Graduation Pledge spread to 20 campuses, mostly in California, but as far away as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York (Ihne, 2012). The Graduation Pledge received its most visible boost when Stanford University President Donald Kennedy encouraged signing of the pledge in his commencement address to 30,000 attending the Stanford stadium ceremony in June 1988 (Ihne, 2012). Kennedy stated:

First, please do go to work on the world’s problems. They look much more overwhelming when one cannot envision oneself as part of the solution… It is not for nothing that Hippocrates led off his string of aphorisms with: “First do no harm.” Evaluate what you do in terms of all its consequences so that you have confidence in the worth of your commitments. It is that context in which I view the Commencement pledge idea. It asks that we consider outcomes- not that we declare allegiance in advance to some normative standard it supplies. It should be as acceptable to the political conservative as to the liberal, because it does something we all need to do more of- that is, it helps us focus on the consequences of what we do, urges us to estimate them, and urges us to try to decide whether they are acceptable (Kennedy, 1988, p. 9).

As the Graduation Pledge spread throughout the country in 1988, this led to many statements of support such as this endorsement from Dr. Helen Caldicott:

I think the pledge is truly magnificent. I’m very proud of the students for doing that. It reminds me of the Russian doctors who now include in the Hippocratic oath that they will not work in any way, shape or form to prepare for nuclear war or for saving people after nuclear war (Caldicott, 1988, p. 24).

In 1996, the national headquarters for the Graduation Pledge Alliance moved from Humboldt State College to Manchester College in Indiana, home of the first U.S. peace studies program (begun in 1948). This move was led by Dr. Neil Wollman, a professor of psychology at Manchester, who had helped to bring the Graduation Pledge to Manchester in 1988 in that first wave of the spread of the Graduation Pledge (Ihne, 2012). Manchester College then served as the national home for the Graduation Pledge Alliance for the next eleven years. Over that time, the Graduation Pledge spread to over 100 colleges around the world with a strong presence in Canada and Asia (Hsiu-Chuan, 2005; Milcetich, 2007; Sequeira, 2007; Yan-Chih, 2005).

Through the national attention given the Graduation Pledge by news sources such as USA Today, Business Week, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press, an estimated 200,000 plus students have signed the pledge (Graduation Pledge Alliance, 2012c). Some of the most significant accomplishments occur when alumni work to change the conditions of their workplace. Among the many ways in which these students have lived out the pledge are: (a) promoting recycling at their organization, (b) removing racist language from a training manual, (c) working for gender parity in high school athletics, and (d) convincing an employer to refuse a chemical weapons-related contract (Graduation Pledge Alliance, 2012c).

Then in 2007, the Graduation Pledge Alliance national headquarters moved again, this time to Bentley University in Massachusetts, where it is currently a program of the Bentley Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility. The Bentley Alliance is coordinated by Dr. Tony Buono. Dr. Buono, Neil Wollman, Matt Nicodemus, Michael Waas Smith, and Tracie Brandt make up the Executive Committee of the national Graduation Pledge Alliance.

Michael is a former pledge signer at Central Michigan University who is now living out the Pledge as the Global Vice President for TerraCycle, Inc. TerraCycle provides free waste collection programs for hard to recycle materials and then turns the waste into affordable green products. Tracie is a current student at Humboldt State College and coordinated the Graduation Pledge activities for 2011-2012.

On many campuses the Graduation Pledge still follows the original model. The Graduation Pledge is promoted throughout the year; students sign at graduation; students, faculty, staff may wear green ribbons in support; and speakers are encouraged to support signing of the pledge (Graduation Pledge Alliance, 2012a). Yet there is great diversity among individual campuses, with individual schools able to shape the Graduation Pledge to their particular focus, and some using alternative language for the pledge (Graduation Pledge Alliance, 2012a).

But at Bentley University, the Graduation Pledge is being brought to a whole new level. Through the Bentley Civic Leadership Program (BCLP), the Graduation Pledge is infused throughout the curriculum, where it is now the “capstone” of the four year Bentley experience (Bentley Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility, 2012).

The BCLP provides students with the opportunity to develop into civic leaders. The BCLP, which is student initiated and led, has three foci: campus involvement, civic engagement, and ethical and responsible behavior. Building on these three areas, students compile an interactive co-curricular e-portfolio of experiences, emphasizing reflective practice and encouraging them to understand and appreciate how their involvement both improves their communities and makes them better citizens. Students who complete the BCLP requirements then take the Pledge prior to commencement.

The Bentley Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility, in partnership with the Graduation Pledge Alliance, is seeking to build upon the 25 year success of the Graduation Pledge by encouraging students to apply the social and environmental concerns they have learned in college to the rest of their lives, especially in their professional careers. In October of this year, I was brought on board to serve as Executive Director for the Graduation Pledge Alliance and implement a transformation effort that was initiated in 2010 (Graduation Pledge Alliance, 2010). The transformation effort is intended to strengthen the ability of the Graduation Pledge to operate at three levels:

  • More students and graduates taking the pledge and making choices about their employment and their lives in a more serious and life-influencing way.
  • Colleges integrating or strengthening values and citizenship education along with the teaching of traditional knowledge and skills.
  • Pledge signers and alumni impacting the workplace and society to become concerned about more than just the “bottom line.”

Through this transformation effort, the Bentley Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility and the Graduation Pledge Alliance hope to serve as strategic partners in making the pledge a truly international phenomenon. Our goal is to institutionalize and expand pledge activities at schools worldwide, building on those schools in major population areas that are already involved with the Pledge. The intention of these partnerships is to motivate and educate campus Pledge organizers and potential supporters to ensure that the Pledge is actually lived out following graduation, by increasing the involvement of academic departments, administrative offices, and student and alumni organizations. If only a small minority of the millions of college graduates each year sign and live out the Pledge, the impact can be immense. To carry out this transformation effort, we are pursuing three strategic initiatives:

  • First, we are seeking faculty and/or administrative staff to serve as advisors to the student pledge groups on individual campuses. In the coming months, we will be developing toolkits that faculty/staff advisors can use to institutionalize and strengthen the Graduation Pledge on their campuses.
  • Second, we are seeking the resources to support alumni chapters where pledge signers can build a global community of responsible graduates improving society and the environment through the workplace and their lives. We envision a world where every graduate is an effective leader for social and environmental improvement, linked in a common effort to connect the dots and understand how our actions intertwine and contribute to the development of a more healthy, sustainable, and just world.
  • Third, we are using the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s theory of change to develop an operational evaluation plan in order to document our effectiveness in bringing about a shift in social norms, improved policies, and real changes in impact. We intend that this evaluation model will allow us to contribute to and collaborate with innovative research that focuses on ethical issues and social responsibility and their implications for real world practice.

Those readers of Professional Ethics Report who would be willing to assist us with any of these three initiatives should contact me at gpa@bentley.edu, or for further information visit our web site at http://www.graduationpledge.org/.

References

Bentley Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility. (2012). Bentley civic leadership program. Retrieved December 1, 2012 from http://www.bentley.edu/centers/alliance/bentley-civic-leadership-program

Caldicott, H. (1988). Statements of support from individuals and organizations. Graduation
Pledge Alliance Organizing Manual, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA.

Graduation Pledge Alliance. (2010). Overview of the Graduation Pledge Alliance transformation effort. Graduation Pledge Alliance Archives, Bentley Alliance or Ethics and Social Responsibility, Bentley University, Waltham, MA.

Graduation Pledge Alliance. (2012a). Starting a campaign. Retrieved December 1, 2012 from http://www.graduationpledge.org/pledge-organizers/starting-a-campaign/

Graduation Pledge Alliance. (2012b). The graduation pledge of social & environmental responsibility. Retrieved November 30, 2012 from http://www.graduationpledge.org/

Graduation Pledge Alliance. (2012c). Unpublished archival data. Bentley Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility, Bentley University, Waltham, MA.

Hsiu-Chuan, S. (2005). Youths make pledge to speak up on social, environmental issues. Taiwan
News, p. 3.

Ihne, W. (2012). Starting a campus tradition: A graduation pledge of responsibility. Retrieved
November 30, 2012 from http://www.graduationpledge.org/about/history/

Kennedy, D. (1988, June 15). Commencement address. The Stanford University, Campus Report,
p. 9.

Milcetich, J. (2007). Pledge adds environmental, social factor to future job hunt. McClatchy- Tribune.

Sequeira, C. (2007). The Return of the Graduation Pledge to MIT. Unpublished manuscript, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA.

Simon, R. (1987, June 22). ’60s activism finds a niche in the ’80s. Chicago Tribune, p. A-1. Yan-Chih, M. (2005, May 23). Pledge instills a social conscience. Taipei Times, p. 2.

BACK TO TOP


In the News

Privacy and Progress: New Presidential Commission Report

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (the Commission) released its report on genomics and privacy on October 11, 2012. Entitled Privacy and Progress in Whole Genome Sequencing [1], the report provides five goals and twelve recommendations to resolve the conflict between the potential benefits of genomics and concerns surrounding genetic privacy [2].

The Privacy and Progress report seeks to resolve conflicts between emerging genetic discoveries and privacy concerns. The report is the product of the Commission’s public deliberations that took place during last August. In preparation for those meetings, the Commission solicited the public for feedback on genetics through its website in March [3]. The meetings focused on various aspects and consequences of the rise of whole genome sequencing.

The Commission’s responses to the topics discussed can be categorized into two themes: (1) the consent procedure associated with genome sequencing and to unintentional findings and results; and (2) the oversight process [4]. To address the two topics, the Commission established the following five goals: (1) simultaneously protecting and promoting access to genomic information; (2) strengthening data security; (3) obtaining informed consent from participants; (4) encouraging advancement in whole genome sequencing through new methods; and (5) aiming for public benefits [1].

Originating from the five goals, the Commission’s twelve recommendations to President Obama include [1]:

  1. Establish and maintain clear regulations about accessing and using genomic data to encourage participants to share their genomic data (Goal 1);
  2. Prohibit genomic sequencing without the sample provider’s consent (Goal 1);
  3. Promote professional accountability and ethical standards in genomics researchers to protect whole genome sequence data (Goal 2);
  4. Inform the research participants and sample providers about regulations regarding the access and use of genomic data (Goal 2);
  5. Ensure that a third party’s access to genomic information complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other relevant requirements (Goal 2);
  6. Provide informed consent that allows research participants to understand who can access their genomic sequences and how they might be used in the future, and obtain consent from participants when samples are obtained (Goal 3);
  7. Formulate clear and consistent guidelines on informed consent based on the Common Rule (Goal 3);
  8. Indicate in consent forms that incidental discoveries may be found in the process of genomic research, and how participants might become aware of such findings (Goal 3);
  9. Investigate expectations and preferences of those who contributed samples regarding incidental research findings (Goal 3);
  10. Encourage frequent information exchange among researchers, institutions and commercial sectors to advance genomic research while protecting genomic data (Goal 4);
  11. Search for opportunities through which the public may enjoy the benefits of genomic research, and for alternative forms of relationships between the participant and the researcher (Goal 4); and
  12. Facilitate access to the results of whole genomic sequencing so the public may enjoy the benefits derived from genomic sequencing (Goal 5).

For the full text of the Privacy and Progress report, refer to [1].

[1] http://bioethics.gov/cms/sites/default/files/PrivacyProgress508.pdf
[2] http://bioethics.gov/cms/node/765
[3] http://bioethics.gov/cms/node/676
[4] http://blog.bioethics.gov/2012/08/02/wrapping-up-genomics-and-privacy/

* HO

BACK TO TOP


University of Virginia Whistleblower Wins Unfair Termination Suit

Dr. Weihua Huang, a former genetic researcher at the University of Virginia, was awarded more than $800,000 by a federal jury for being fired after reporting “unauthorized modifications” to a research grant funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) [1]. Brought under the federal False Claims Act, the case is one of the few cases tried to verdict since the anti-retaliation provision of the Act was amended in 2009. The amendment protects whistleblowers from employer retaliation (harassment, demotion, or suspension) “because of lawful acts done by the employee…” to stop any form of wrongdoing detailed in the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §3730(h)). Employees can file suit against the employer and possibly collect relief in the form of reinstatement, two times the amount of back pay, and other compensation for damages [2].

Huang’s supervisor, Dr. Ming D. Li., was responsible for the alleged modifications to the grant, charging paid time for work not done from June to November 2009. Dr. Huang applied for and received the grant as principal investigator in 2008, budgeting 50 percent of his time and 5 percent to Li for work related to nicotine addiction. Huang later discovered that Li changed the budgeted commitment to 75 percent for Huang, 7.5 percent for himself, and added 50 percent for a lab technician [3]. Huang reported the unauthorized changes to the Chairman of the University’s Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, Dr. Bankole A. Johnson. Dr. Huang received notice soon after that his contract would not be renewed by the university because of what was stated to be poor performance on his part as a researcher by Dr. Bankole and Dr. Li.

Dr. Huang filed a lawsuit claiming the termination was an act of retaliation for whistleblowing about the falsified time claims. The jury awarded Huang compensation for the accumulated back pay after his termination, along with $500,000 for non-economic damages, including damages to his academic reputation and research credibility. Payment for lost future earnings, or whether the university must reinstate Huang, will be determined in a later decision the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia [4]. This will not likely be the last of these types of cases. Huang’s attorney stated that “[The defendants] said they do this all the time and that it’s routine…this [ruling] is really going to shake up the way accounting is going to be done on these grants.” [3]

[1] http://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2012/10/whistleblower-wins-unfair-contract-termination-suit
[2] http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/31/3730
[3] http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/32908/title/Court-Awards-Whistleblower–820-000/
[4] http://www.bizjournals.com/prnewswire/press_releases/2012/10/15/PH93477

*MB

BACK TO TOP


RePAIR Program: A Program for Recidivist Unethical Researchers

Founded by the Saint Louis University (SLU)’s Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics, the Restoring Professionalism & Integrity in Research (RePAIR) Program is the first formal remediation program that seeks to maintain the public’s trust in the research community by providing an “intensive professional development education for investigators who have engaged in wrongdoing or unprofessional behavior.”[1] It was developed through collaboration of cognitive and industrial organizational psychologists, research ethicists, lawyers, remediation program experts and research oversight personnel [1].

The project initiated with a needs assessment sent to 194 medical schools and other comprehensive academic institutions offering doctoral degrees [3]. 129 responded, and the research team discovered that 96 percent of the responding institutions investigated unethical conducts in the past two years [1][3]. The majority of the respondents indicated that they administer minimal punishments, and only 30 percent of the responding institutions found their efforts satisfactory [3]. RePAIR seeks to improve this situation by providing “a good middle ground” between the two extreme responses to the needs assessment by addressing the causes of unethical research behavior and encouraging good research practices and decision-making skills [3].

The RePAIR Program has two mandatory components: online and onsite sessions. The Program offers two options for the online session. The first course is related to research integrity; the second course addresses human subjects research [3]. The online component takes approximately 4 to 10 hours, depending on the individual taking it [1]. About 3.5 days long, the onsite workshop aims to develop ethical thinking patterns, decision-making skills and work habits [1]. Following the completion of the onsite workshop, each participant will receive a personalized management plan for maintaining his or her ethical behavior [1]. Participation in the Program is confidential [1]. The US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has not endorsed the Program, but its officials view it as a good potential resource for research institutions [2].

A one-year $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health funds the RePAIR program [3]. The Program cooperates with the office of research at SLU, and is a partnership of the SLU and Washington University’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Science [3].

The RePAIR Program began to offer its online sessions in November 2012; the offline workshops will be offered starting January 2013 [1]. For further information, visit http://www.slu.edu/repair/.

[1] http://www.slu.edu/repair/images/repair_brochure.pdf
[2] http://ori.hhs.gov/blog/repair-program-provides-solution-redeem-researchers
[3] http://www.slu.edu/rel-repair-program-618
[4] http://blog.ucsusa.org/congress-does-something-right-for-federal-scientists/

* HO

BACK TO TOP


In the Societies

InterAcademy Council and IAP Release Report on Responsible Conduct in the Global Research Enterprise

On October 17, 2012, the InterAcademy Council (IAC) and the IAP – the global network of science academies – released a report on Responsible Conduct in the Global Research Enterprise. The document addresses contemporary issues in the conduct of science by identifying fundamental values and principles researchers and institutions should incorporate into their work as responsible investigators. The recommended principles build on the efforts of several organizations and conferences that have tackled such issues, largely in response to the vast growth in global research, emergent interdisciplinary-fields of investigation, and trending incidents of research misconduct worldwide.

One issue that arises from the proliferation of collaborative international research projects is the problem of attribution. With multiple researchers working on a single project, in different capacities and locations, sometimes authorship is not properly given in any resulting publication. The report recommends that researchers define clear project plans in which the expectations for authorship and attribution are delineated. In fact, common standards and protocols of research conduct for collaborators is a recurring theme in the report. A review of literature from scientific societies and policy offices cited in the report has shown that definitions of research misconduct are not universally uniform and can vary by country. Having a set research plan could mitigate unexpected conflicts in research practices, and prevent the output of substandard science that would damage the reputations of both researchers and the research enterprise itself.

Highlighted is also the potential for misconduct in the peer-review processes of publications, funding awards, and technical pieces of literature (e.g., policy papers or briefs). The anonymity of peer-review can be an enabler in treating others’ work unfairly, with a biased intention of reviewers to safeguard their own work in the field, or not giving credit to novel lines of inquiry. According to the report, full-disclosure of conflicts of interest is necessary for maintaining trust in the peer-review system. Journals have a special role to play by establishing rules for disclosure and guidelines for handling instances of peer-review abuse or misconduct. Overall, the view is that journals can safeguard research integrity by implementing technological tools to manage article reviews, retractions, and to check for instances of plagiarism (including “self-plagiarism” through copying previous research) or unduly self-cited work used to boost bibliometric impacts.

Public and private funding agents also have a role to promote responsible research conduct in the IAC/IAP recommendations. The report states that funding institutions should be mindful of the priorities set forth in their grant structure. IAP Co-Chair Howard Alper stated that “[t]oo often there is an overemphasis of quantity over quality in reward systems of researchers, which can send a bad message…” [1] This relates back to the point of “self-plagiarism” and unduly cited work, in that incentives placed on superficial metrics of research can unwittingly push researchers to act irresponsibly, rather than promoting integrity and innovation in scholarly investigation. More broadly, the report makes note that institutions have a special obligation to inculcate a culture of responsible conduct early on in the next generation of investigators. By establishing a framework for communicating the definitions of misconduct, integrity, the proper methods of research, and the responsibilities of a researcher, (e.g., clarifying the role between investigator and policy advocate), education can act as deterrence to future wrongdoing.

But how do you ensure that standards are integrated across all institutions and across all borders? According to IAP Co-Chair, and chair on the Council of United Nations University, Mohamed H.A. Hassan, “[n]ational scientific academies throughout the world can play a critical role in promoting the establishment and maintenance of standards of scientific integrity…” [1] With strong leadership from the academies, and researchers worldwide, it is the intention of the IAC/IAP report to catalyze the development of “…an ethical framework that applies to every individual and institution involved in research.” [2]

[1] IAC Press Release http://interacademycouncil.net/24770/24032/28355.aspx?layoutChange=Print
[2] IAC/IAP Report http://interacademycouncil.net/File.aspx?id=28253

*MB

BACK TO TOP


Resources

Science and Human Rights: Expanding Horizons

“The history of the Leopoldina [the German National Academy of Science]has amply shown how important human rights in general, and the respect for the human rights of the individual scientist in particular, are for the proper conduct of science,” said Professor Gereon Wolters, referring to the failure of the Academy to resist the pressures of Nazism when “with remarkable disinterest [the Academy] removed their Jewish members from its records.”

Professor Wolters was the opening speaker at a symposium held by the Leopoldina in October 2010. The symposium had three goals: identify the human rights concerns and activities of European Academies; highlight problems associated with the documentation of cases of human rights violations against scientists; and develop options for better cooperation between European Academies in the field of human rights. Participants were primarily drawn from European Academies, with additional invited participants from the human rights and development communities. The discussion that resulted is documented in a symposium report published in 2011 [1] and reveals several lessons, challenges and opportunities for addressing the intersections of science and human rights that remain current and pressing today.

Intersections – For those of us immersed in the world of “science and human rights,” we recognize five primary intersections between the two: scientists have rights, scientists can apply their knowledge and skills to human rights questions, scientists can add their voice to human rights issues, scientific conduct and the applications of science may have human rights implications, and everyone has the right to benefit from scientific progress.

The Leopoldina symposium recognized each of these connections between science and human rights, but went further than many commentators have so far been willing to go in articulating a responsibility on the part of scientists to address human rights. Characterized by some speakers as a professional responsibility and by others as a social responsibility, the practical significance appears to have been the same – [scientists] should “always be aware of the responsibility they have towards the system, society and their colleagues.” According to Carol Corillon, Executive Director of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies, scientists already do “see it as their professional duty to come to the aid of their less fortunate colleagues and to address human rights issues that negatively affect science, engineering, and health as well as practices in these fields that can or do negatively affect human rights.”

Lessons – Taking a human rights based approach to policy and programmatic concerns related to science and technology has practical meaning and value. Furthermore, applying a human rights framework in a given context can yield a different outcome than the application of an ethical or development frame. Folke Kayser of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation provided an example. Drawing from examples focused on the deployment of basic technologies for ensuring water and sanitation in developing countries, Kayser concluded that the explicit use of a human rights framework “led to a more systematic analysis of social marginalization and governance deficits. As a result the interventions produced better and more sustainable development results especially for vulnerable population groups.”

Another lesson emphasized by Rüdiger Wolfrum of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law was the need for scientists to communicate more often and more effectively with policy makers and the public about the objectives and significance of their research as well as any associated risks.

Challenges – The second half of the symposium provided an opportunity for representatives of academies across Europe to address the human rights issues with which they are most concerned. Speakers highlighted several challenges they face currently: persecution of scientists because of the subject or results of their research; restrictive budgets; poor scientific education; conflicts between science and religion; and national security concerns that limit the free movement and exchange among scientists.

What stands out is the dichotomy between the emphasis given by the speakers from the human rights and development communities about the need for greater collaboration between scientists and human rights practitioners and the continued emphasis, often the sole focus, of the academies represented on the rights of individual scientists and scientific freedom. It is indisputable that without the freedom to conduct their work, scientists will be less able to contribute to human rights efforts. The challenge now exists to expand the focus of academies to include programs that engage scientists in applying their skills and bringing their voice to human rights issues. The Leopoldina symposium identified several opportunities for doing so.

Opportunities – Corillon described several initiatives of academies within the International Human Rights Network that may provide models for academies interested in engaging more broadly in human rights. From making statements on the protection of human rights in the context of responses to terrorism to monitoring compliance with a government’s human rights obligations, examples do exist of public engagement by science academies on human rights issues.

Elmar Doppelfeld of the Permanent Working Party of the Research Ethics Committee in Germany identified further opportunities for scientists to become engaged in human rights issues, specifically in the realm of human subjects protections. He highlighted two contemporary areas requiring attention: provision of the results of a research project to research participants and storage and use of biological materials and data.

A longer-term and more comprehensive approach to addressing human rights in the context of scientific research and cooperation was outlined by Jean-Paul Lehners of the University of Luxembourg. Among his recommendations were for human rights to be given explicit mention in joint research projects, to make human rights “a transversal dimension” in the learning, research, management and service activities of universities, reorientation of scientific research to meet the needs of vulnerable and marginalized populations, and for scientists to actively promote the right to “enjoy the benefits of scientific progress.”

The discussion and recommendations made at this first Leopoldina symposium on science and human rights have given rise to an ongoing dialogue in Europe about human rights and science and the role of science academies. The Leopoldina symposium led to subsequent annual meetings of a similar nature, each addressing specific human rights concerns that build on the broad base provided by the inaugural symposium. Such dialogue is needed if the challenges identified are to be addressed and the opportunities taken to strengthen the involvement of science academies and scientists generally in human rights.

[1] Johannes Eckert and Hans-Peter Zenner (eds.), “Human Rights and Science,” Nova Acta Leopoldina, Neue Folge, Band 113, Nummer 387. Available at: http://websrv.leopoldina.org/en/publications/detailview/?publication%5Bpublication%5D=134&cHash=9c7b89c1abdbd61cd7d8287fa01a2dd1
[2] Article 15 (1)(b), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) Everyone has the right to “enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications.”

*JW

BACK TO TOP


International Compilation of Human Research Standards

The U.S. Office for Human Research Protections recently released its 2013 edition of the International Compilation of Human Research Standards. This includes a list of laws, regulations, guidelines, and standards governing research on human subjects in 104 countries and several international organizations. The Compilation is intended to assist researchers, IRBs/Research Ethics Committees, sponsors, and others involved in human subjects research in following the ethical and legal protocols set out by the respective country where such research is conducted.

Provided by experts from each country [1], the enumerated standards have been categorized based on topical content: General (being widely applicable to human subjects research); Drugs and Devices; Research Inquiry; Privacy/Data Protection; Human Biological Materials; Genetic; and Embryos, Stem Cell, and Cloning. Web links provide access to the desired content, such as the websites of key organizations that implement or oversee research regulations, specific legislative or regulatory documents on human subject research, and guidelines on research practices.

The Compilation does not include the following: standards from state or local levels; content specific to research integrity; clinical bioethics; intellectual property; informed consent; institutional ethics codes; and unofficial documents on human research standards.

You can access the Compilation here, along with other resources on ethics codes, research standards, and protections.

[1]http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/newsroom/announcements/2012.html#20121127

*MB

BACK TO TOP


Ethically Impossible: STD Research in Guatemala

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, an advisory panel to the President on issues arising from advances in biomedicine, science, and technology, recently published a follow up to fact-finding investigations on STD research conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). President Barack Obama commissioned these investigations in 2010, following the public disclosure of records once held by Dr. John Cutler, a former PHS investigator involved with the design and implementation of the STD research. A Study Guide to “Ethically Impossible” STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948 is a supplement to the Commission’s initial 2011 report by the same title, and acts as a bibliographic resource to provide deeper ethical and historical contexts to the experiments conducted by the PHS in Guatemala.

In the period leading up to the experiments, much concern had developed over the impact of STD infections on the health and readiness of members of the armed services. Several research studies were conducted as a result: one study at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana (1942-1943), the precursor for the Guatemala study (1946-1948), and the infamous Tuskegee experiments that were the longest running (1932-1972). The experiments conducted in Guatemala featured prisoners intentionally exposed, without consent or knowledge, to gonorrhea and syphilis by infected sex workers hired by PHS researchers. Multiple trials and methods of diagnosis, treatment, and infection were conducted on the prisoners, as well as soldiers and patients of a nearby psychiatric facility. Deception and gross treatment of research subjects were only part of the study’s larger ethical troubles. In written records, there were consistent racial and cultural biases at play, such as the belief that the form of STD infection was different between races and that “sexual promiscuity” was a matter of race or heritage. Though much work went into the study in Guatemala, no formal scientific article on the results of the experiments was published, nor publicly discussed, leaving it closed to scrutiny by the wider scientific community.

The Study Guide itself is divided along several important ethical dimensions, offering select case studies for researchers, educators, students, and anyone interested in the matter, to gain insight into the implications of experiments on human subjects. Each section in the guide covers a different perspective on the Guatemala case, from historical to more pedagogical views. For instance, a section titled Ethical Issues with the Research Design covers points of racial bias, secrecy, informed consent, and the problematic scientific designs of the experiment. Similar to the actual report, pieces of historical evidence, such as correspondence and documented statements from individuals involved with the experiment, are included with each case study. Comments sections are also featured, posing questions intended to spark thoughtful inquiry on bioethics and on the merit of similar lines of scientific investigation. To help direct that inquiry, each case study is followed by a Recommended Reading section, containing a list of books, chapters, and journal articles relevant to the topic discussed.

According to Commission Chair Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., “The Commission has consistently noted the marked need for more ethics education,” and hopes “college and university professors incorporate [the Study Guide] into their already existing ethics classes, or use it to present an ethics discussion in a science, law, medical, history, or any other class.” [1] A major imperative of the Study Guide is to continue the conversation started by the report, and keep fresh the debate on bioethics, which is becoming central to the consideration of medical developments in contemporary life.

You can access the Study Guide here, and additional resources on “Ethically Impossible,” including a spreadsheet with subject data of the experiment, here.

[1] http://bioethics.gov/cms/node/778

*MB

BACK TO TOP


Ethics Awareness Week Videos

Video recordings of lectures and panel discussions from the inaugural Ethics Awareness Week at the University of Illinois are now available on Ethics CORE (http://NationalEthicsCenter.org). Ethics Awareness week was held October 7-13, 2012, and sponsored events ranged from panel discussions on teaching ethics in the classroom, to a staged reading of the play Oleanna, to lectures on what it means to be a socially responsible scientist. Events touched on ethics topics in physics, biology, medical science, research oversight, education, sociology, engineering, computer science, and library science participated. Invited guest lecturers were Brian Martinson from Sanford Health Partners; Mark S. Frankel from the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Keith Baggerly, Professor from University of Texas and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; Donna McNeely, the Ethics Officer for the University of Illinois; Kate Kirby, Executive Officer of the American Physical Society; Susan Silbey, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at MIT; Kenneth D. Pimple from the Poynter Center and Indiana University; and Lane Wilkinson, a librarian at the University of Tennessee.

Ethics Awareness Week was coordinated by the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics (NCPRE) in the Coordinated Science Laboratory at the University of Illinois in collaboration with the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society in the College of Business. It was co-sponsored by the Graduate College and the Vice Chancellor for Research. The goal of this anticipated yearly event is to raise faculty and students’ awareness of myriad ethical issues related to their work within a specific discipline and the greater context of academia, as well as to provide a forum for questions and discussion. NCPRE is making all Ethics Awareness Week recordings freely available in order to contribute to the pool of open access ethics resources available to students, researchers, instructors, and administrators.

*CKG

BACK TO TOP


Announcements

Call for Abstracts – JAMA and the BMJ invite abstract submissions for the Seventh International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication. Suggested topics for research include bias and efforts to eliminate biased reporting, peer review decision making and responsibilities, research and publication ethics, evaluations of and mechanisms for improving the quality of reporting, models for peer review and scientific publication, and dissemination of scientific scholarly information. Abstracts should be submitted between January 1, 2013 and March 1, 2013. For more information, see http://peerreviewcongress.org/node/21#call-for-abstracts.

Call for Cases – A new publication on public health ethics, “Global Perspectives on Public Health Ethics: A Casebook,” seeks submission of cases that highlight global perspectives on the ethical challenges of public health and approaches specifically designed for addressing these challenges. The cases will be used to explore differences and similarities in various cultural approaches to the application of ethics to the practice of public health. Although the target audience for the casebook will be public health practitioners, the casebook format will make it useful for educators who wish to use it in classes or workshops on public health ethics. The intent is to publish the casebook in an open access format so that it will be freely accessible to a wide audience. The due date for cases is January 1, 2013. More information about the casebook and requirements for submitting a case can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/od/science/integrity/phethics/callforcases.htm.

Call for Papers – The Third Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication will be held May 30 – June 1, 2013 in Ames, Iowa. The theme for the symposium is “Ethical Issues in Science Communication: A Theory-Based Approach.” The purpose of the symposium is to bring together scholars from across disciplines whose research can contribute toward a theoretical articulation of the ethical issues surrounding the communication of science to non-expert audiences. Work from relevant disciplines including communication, rhetoric, philosophy, science and technology studies, and the sciences themselves, is invited. Topics may include: the underlying goals of science communication, specific ethical issues within science communication, such as hype, spin, and appropriate advocacy, ethical standards for the use of non-rational appeals such as narrative, framing, and metaphor, normative roles of scientists, citizens, science journalists, science bloggers and other stakeholders within the science communication process, ethical challenges in communicating subjects such as risk and uncertainty, normative issues in the design of public participation processes, empirical work on the perceptions of ethical issues from the perspectives of various stakeholders, and approaches to teaching science communication ethics. The deadline for submission of papers is January 31, 2013. Contact Michael Dahlstrom at mfd@iastate.edu.

Call for Submissions – The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University invites submissions to its Sixth Annual Undergraduate Ethics Symposium to be held April 11-13, 2013. The theme for this year’s symposium is environmental ethics. It is an opportunity for student scholars, creative writers, filmmakers and photographers to discuss their ethics-related work with leading scholars and professionals in their fields and to participate in a significant discussion of ethical concerns. The Institute welcomes works centered on ethics from all disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and the arts. Examples of the types of works accepted in the past include: argumentative and analytic essays, creative writing, poetry, film, documentaries and photography. The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2013. For further information, visit http://www.depauw.edu/academics/centers/prindle/ues/2013/ or contact Nicki Hewell at elizabethhewell@depauw.edu.

Course - The Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics is offering a winter intensive course on “Social Media & Health: Meeting the Ethical Challenges.” The one-day course will be held on January 14, 15 and 17, 2013. The course will explore the practical and ethical challenges of the use of social media within the health sector, and is designed for both students and professionals. For more information and to register for the course, go to http://www.bioethicsinstitute.org/education-training-2/bioethics-intensives.

Fellowship – The Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University seeks four post doctoral fellows for the 2013-2014 year. The Center is interested in candidates with research interests in inequality, human rights, immigration, and environmental justice, but welcomes applicants with strong normative interests that have practical implications. Fellows will teach one class, participate in a Political Theory Workshop, interact with undergraduates in the Ethics in Society Honors Program and help in developing an inter-disciplinary ethics community across the campus. The deadline for application is January 10, 2013. For information on how to access the online system to submit your application, visit http://ethicsinsociety.stanford.edu/grants-fellowships/postdoctoral-fellowships/ or contact Joan Berry at joanberry@stanford.edu.

Summer Institute – Yale’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics will host an intensive Summer Institute in Bioethics from June 3 – July 26, 2013. The eight week immersion program will offer lectures, seminars, and research that explores that bioethical concerns relating to medicine, law, religion, public health, animal rights and the environment. The deadline for application for US students is January 15, 2013. The deadline for international applicants has passed. For further information, visit www.yale.edu/bioethics/summer.shtml or contact Carol Pollard at carol.pollard@yale.edu.

Summer Intensive – The Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) program of the Museum of Jewish Heritage seeks applications for the 2013 year. The two-week Fellowships provide journalism, law, medical, and seminary students a structured program of study that initially focuses on the role of their chosen professions in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust and uses that historic focus as a framework for the consideration of contemporary ethical issues. The deadline for application is January 11, 2013. For more information, see http://www.mjhnyc.org/faspe/ or contact Thorin Tritter at ttritter@FASPE.info.

Visiting Scholar – The Jepson School of Leadership Studies is accepting applications for the position of Zuzana Simoniova Cmelikova Visiting International Scholar in Leadership and Ethics for 2013- 2014. The program is designed to give visiting scholars who have extensive international experience the opportunity to develop courses, to design programs, or to conduct research on leadership ethics. Scholars from newly formed democracies are encouraged to apply. The Visiting International Scholar will be in residence at the University of Richmond for the academic year. They will also give some presentations related to their research and/or issues related to leadership in their country. Candidates should send applications to https://www.urjobs.org/. Review of applications will begin on December 1 and continue until the position is filled. Inquiries should be directed to Nancy Nock at nnock@richmond.edu.

Workshop – Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions will host the Twentieth Annual Teaching Research Ethics Workshop on May 14-17, 2013 at Indiana University Bloomington. Session topics will include: an overview of ethical theory, an overview of research ethics, trainee and authorship issues, conflicts of interest, the use of human subjects in clinical and non-clinical research, and responsible data management. Many sessions will feature techniques for teaching and assessing the responsible conduct of research. In addition to plenary sessions, each participant selects an intensive track to meet with the same group twice and two different breakout sessions. The workshop schedule, registration, and complete information are available at http://poynter.indiana.edu.

Workshop – On February 14, 2013, in conjunction with its Annual Meeting in Boston, MA, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will convene a one-day workshop on Responsible Professional Practices in a Changing Research Environment. The theme of this year’s workshop is ”Professional Development and Responsible Science.” This workshop on professional development and responsible practice will be directed toward trainees (e.g., graduate students and post-docs) and early career scientists, and will cover such topics as responsible communication of research results, developing a successful research program, international collaborations, and giving and receiving good mentoring. More senior faculty interested in establishing or enhancing programs on career development and/or responsible conduct at their home institutions are also encouraged to attend. There will be special sessions for this group, focusing on implementing training and instructional strategies. For more information, visit http://srhrl.aaas.org/projects/research_ethics/workshop/2013.shtml.

BACK TO TOP