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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Margaret Alison Wylie
VALUES 591
Seattle Campus

Ethics Matters in Science: Research Questions as Moral Questions

Aims to introduce graduate and professional students from a wide range of primarily non-medical scientific backgrounds to some common moral questions that arise in the course of doing scientific research, and to provide a basic philosophical framework for thinking about related issues that arise within their own disciplines or fields.

Class description

This seminar is designed to introduce graduate and professional students from a wide range of fields to key moral questions that commonly arise in the course of doing scientific research in the non-medical sciences. These include not only the issues associated with "Responsible Conduct of Research" (RCR) - professional conduct in mentoring, training and collaboration; appropriate credit and authorship; safety and confidentiality - but also issues of accountability for the social and environmental impacts of research, and broader questions about values embedded in scientific practice that are often not recognized as ethical.

This spring the anchor for discussion will be three normative concepts that cross-cut research contexts: ideals of integrity, norms of consent, and an ethic of stewardship. Discussion will be informed by public panel discussions sponsored by the BioFutures project, and students will be asked to develop case studies that illustrate how these concepts are articulated in specific contexts of practice.

TEXTS: The majority of assigned readings will take the form of articles available online (ERES). One text has been ordered: David B. Resnik, The Ethics of Science (Routledge, 1998).

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Class meetings will be organized as seminar-style discussions with periodic student presentations.

Recommended preparation

Students from a wide range of backgrounds are welcome! As with other graduate seminars in the Program on Values, it is assumed that the perspectives students bring from diverse fields will prove illuminating for all.

Class assignments and grading

Course assignments will include reading responses, class presentations, and one short (8-10 page) case study-based paper on one of the ethics issue or themes central to the class.


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: 01/31/2013