The purpose of this course is to explore the ways in which values play a role in the practice of science. This course will consider the values and practices of scientific countries (including the U.S., Japan, and India), and the historical development of particular scientific values and practices (e.g., objectivity, proper methods for communicating results, proper treatment of human or animal experimental subjects), and the interactions between cultures that influence the development of scientific values and practices (e.g., the particular departures from the western model of science seen in Japan and India).
Another purpose of this course is to recognize that within a country like the U.S. science is a culture, with its own values and practices distinct from those of the lay culture in which it is embedded. Such mundane matters as choice of research question, experimental design, and relationships within research labs are reflections of the values of a scientific community. This course will examine the interactions between the embedded culture of science and the larger embedding culture, exploring how the interplay between these cultures affects the values and practices of each.
Readings will draw heavily on case studies, both to illuminate conflicts over values and over the practices that best embody a value, and to illuminate the advantages of taking a pro-active approach to incorporating ethical considerations in real-life research and learning environments. Since scientific practices embody values, a central goal of this course is to emphasize that ethical considerations are a crucial element of the conduct of science and of good research design.
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