Phil. 133
"Ethics in Science"
Spring 2018

Research Report Guidelines and Topics

Over the course of the term, you will locate two articles on a topic relevant to the class and report to the class on each of these articles.  One article must be from the popular press and the other must be from the scholarly scientific press.  Your research report should highlight the assumptions the article makes about science and the norms these assumptions reflect.  The two research reports will count for 15% of your course grade.

What

PLEASE USE THE SAMPLE RESEARCH REPORT I HAVE POSTED IN THE CANVAS DISCUSSION AREA AS A MODEL FOR FORMAT, APPROXIMATE LENGTH, AND THE LEVEL OF DETAIL AND ENGAGEMENT IN YOUR REPORT.

When

You need to post your first research report by Friday, April 6.  Your second research report is due by Friday, May 11.

Where

There are a number of useful databases available through the King Library with which you can locate both popular and scholarly scientific sources.  Among these, Science Direct, Sci Finder Scholar, and Web of Science will be most helpful for locating the scholarly scientific sources.  Another useful database here will be PubMedGoogle Scholar can also be a useful search engine (although at least some of the results it returns may be sources behind a paywall). A good entry point to current scholarly scientific reports is EurekAlert, whose brief news items often include links to the scientific papers behind them. (However, note that what you're finding directly through EurekAlert are press releases, not scholarly scientific sources!) For the popular sources, you might also use Lexis/Nexis and Google to find what you're looking for.  The "Research Links" page on the course website has links to these databases.


Possible topics:

  1. Are scientists (e.g., on government panels on cloning, stem cell research, global warming, etc.) impartial?
  2. Are some research topics too dangerous to pursue?
  3. Are scientific reports credible?  (Is scientific fraud prevalent?)
  4. Are collaborations between scientists at universities and in the private sector a good thing or a bad thing?
  5. How important is knowledge without clear practical application (i.e., basic research)?
  6. Who should fund "luxury" science (superconducting supercolliders, missions to Mars, etc.)?
  7. A particular case of scientific fraud or misconduct, and what to make of it.
  8. A particular case of conflict of interest in scientific or medical research.
  9. Patient access to experimental drug regimens.
  10. Informed consent and the "therapeutic misconception".
  11. Drug testing in the developing world or in vulnerable populations.
  12. Use of animals in scientific experiments.
  13. Pseudo-science masquerading as real science.
  14. Can a natural product be intellectual property?
  15. Patenting AIDS drugs.
  16. Should science be self-regulated or regulated from outside (e.g., by government agencies)?
  17. Is it ethical for Facebook, Twitter, Google, or similar companies to conduct behavioral studies on people using their services?
  18. "Overtesting" of patients in emergency rooms.
  19. Do non-scientists know enough about the relevant science to make good decisions at the ballot box about controversial questions (e.g., GMO labeling, medical marijuana, etc.)?

You are encouraged to consider other topics as well, but if you are in doubt you should run them by me first to make sure they are suitable for the assignment.

 

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