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Professional Ethics Report: Fall 2016

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Fall 2016 Professional Ethics Report

 Cover Story

In Spring 2016, the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition held a student essay competition, calling for analyses of any topic at the intersection of science and/or technology with human rights. A winner was selected in both the graduate and undergraduate categories, along with an honorable mention.

"Skeletal Analysis after Crimes Against Humanity and Genocides: Implications for Human Rights" by Julie Fleischman

"Living Water: A Catholic Social Teaching Perspective on PFOA and Human Rights" by Tanner Rolfe

"Mathematics and the Question of Human Rights" by Priyanka Menon

In the News

Mandatory DNA Testing in Kuwait 

Fabricated Chinese Clinical Trials

Pope Cites Science, Scientists as Solutions to World Problems 

In the Societies

Chinese Professional Association Spells Out Unethical Publication Practices


Launch of the Human Rights Documentation Toolkit

New Podcast Series Brings Attention to Bioethical Issues

A Fond Farewell
by Mark S. Frankel
Founding and Sustaining Editor, 1988-2016

It’s been 28 years since the founding of Professional Ethics Report (PER). Four issues per year for 28 years adds up to 112 issues, including this one.  I’ve been there for every one of them, but will step down at the end of the year to coincide with my retirement. 

PER began with a mission to “publishing timely information on professional ethics issues and activities which affect a wide range of professions,” although with a primary focus on those whose members “are engaged in scientific research and its applications.”  Over the years, we have broadened the scope of our coverage to include human rights matters as well, as reflected in this issue of PER.

In introducing PER in the inaugural issue in Winter 1988, I wrote that

“In recent years, a blend of economic, social, legal and political events have had a profoundeffect not only on the behavior and performance of professionals, but also on the public’s expectations of them.  As the professions experience growing pressures from the public and government policy makers as well as from their own members to exercise their collective responsibility more effectively, they are, with increasing frequency, seeking strategies for informing and educating their members and others about the ethical implications of their work, for developing or revising standards of conduct, and for establishing procedures to implement and enforce whatever ethical prescriptions they adopt.” 

Twenty-eight years later, I would change very little of what I wrote back then.  The external pressures are still present, and the efforts undertaken by the professions are part of an ongoing process that will likely continue for at least another 28 years.  Perhaps today I would indicate that the professions’ interest in enforcing ethical prescriptions varies considerably, with it not being a priority among most of the basic sciences.  Overall, however, I am comfortable in stating that ethics, and increasingly human rights as well, have become more prominent in the way that professionals think about their work and responsibilities.  This is a good thing, and PER’s contribution to these developments has been very gratifying to those of us at AAAS. 

PER has never been a one-person operation.  We have benefitted from the contributions of several deputy and managing editors, the authors of all the lead articles, and AAAS staff and interns who prepared the bulk of the items published.  PER began as a print publication, but went 100% digital a few years ago.  Over two-plus decades, its style and format have evolved, hopefully for the better.  From the very beginning, we encouraged readers to reproduce part or all of any issue to share with colleagues.  We heard from many of you that this was “standard procedure,” which expanded considerably after PER went digital, and we are very appreciative.

It’s not easy leaving something that you created and sustained over a substantial part of your career. There is every reason to believe that PER will continue, but there may be a brief hiatus in 2017 as AAAS selects a new editor. I thank you, our readers, for your support during these nearly three decades. It’s been a wonderful journey together.