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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Margaret Alison Wylie
GEN ST 391
Seattle Campus

Supervised Study in Selected Fields

Special supervised study in a field represented in the College of Arts and Sciences. Faculty supervisor required. Offered: AWSpS.

Class description

Research Ethics Exposed! offers undergraduate students in all areas of study an opportunity to learn about ethics issues that are an active concern for University of Washington faculty working in cutting edge fields of research in the social and natural sciences.

This course will begin with an introduction to framing concepts, and issues and close with an open forum class discussion convened by the course instructor. Each week through the quarter a faculty member from a different field will identify key ethics issues with which they wrestle in their own research. Here are some of the questions they will be addressing: • Is there research scientists shouldn’t do? • Are researchers responsible for the impact of their work, good and bad? • Do the ends justify the means, for example, where risks of harm to animal or human subjects are concerned? • What counts as research integrity? How do scientists navigate the conflicting demands of funding agencies, industry, their own research communities? • What lessons should we take away from high profile examples of scientific fraud and misconduct? • Do scientists have a responsibility to communicate the results of their research, its risks as well as its benefits, to the public? What kinds of public outreach make a difference to the science and to those who have a stake in its outcomes? • Should scientists play an active role in setting policy that affects the funding and conduct of their research, and the use made of its results, or should they serve as hands-off consultants?

The course is sponsored by the Biological Futures in a Globalized World, a cluster of initiatives hosted by the Simpson Center for the Humanities in partnership with the Center for Biological Futures at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The goal of the Biological Futures program is to foster better thinking about the global impact of dramatic increases in biological knowledge that now put us in a position to manipulate and build living systems on an unprecedented scale.

Student learning goals

Students participating in this course will learn first hand about a range of ethics issues that researchers confront in the social, life, and natural sciences.

They will be introduced to current norms of responsible conduct of research in these diverse fields.

They will be introduced to a range of fields - philosophical ethics, historical and social studies of science - that provide resources for systematically addressing ethical issues raised by the sciences.

They will have an opportunity to reflect on the responsibilities that scientists, research subjects, and citizens jointly have for the wise direction and use of scientific research.

General method of instruction

Lectures by the course instructor, and by guest presenters who actively engage ethics issues raised by diverse fields of research practice. In-class discussion moderated by the course instructor and guest presenters.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Each week the course instructor will pre-circulate a short reading and a set of questions provided by that week’s presenter that relate to the topic of their lecture. Students are strongly encouraged to do the reading in advance, attend all the lectures, and take notes relevant to addressing these pre-circulated questions.

Students taking the course for credit are expected to contribute to online discussion at least twice during the quarter, and to post at least one question for discussion in the final class meeting.

There will be a final quiz based on questions selected from those circulated by the presenters and raised by class participants.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Margaret Alison Wylie
Date: 08/19/2012