Ethics Lecture 1

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Published on December 22, 2008

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Slide 1: Research Ethics Moral reasoning Conflict of interest Human and animal subjects in research Record keeping/data management/ownership of data International research Authorship Investigating allegations of scientific misconduct Slide 2: Science is built upon a foundation of trust and honesty Incorrect data or incorrect interpretation of data are usually (?) (often? sometimes?) corrected by the continuing process of scientific investigations. This is true whether the errors are caused by mistake or misconduct. Science tends to be self-correcting. Slide 3: Why might scientific data be incorrect? Poor experimental design or inappropriate assays Incorrect assumptions (misled by other work) Bad instruments Self-deception or rationalizations Sloppy science Fraud When is it mistake and when is it a misconduct? Disagreements and new interpretations are every day happenings in science Slide 4: Why fraud in science? Career pressure Short-cuts to the “correct” answer The notion that some experiments yield data that are not precisely reproducible Slide 5: Reporting Science How is is done verses how is it reported. “Is the scientific paper a Fraud?” (Medawar asks) Slide 6: What is misconduct? Mistakes versus fraud Fraud is misconduct, mistakes are generally not misconduct (right?) (although, what one does when a mistake is discovered can be misconduct) In many cases, it is difficult to determine whether something is a mistake or deliberate and whether it is ethical or unethical Slide 7: Some areas of misconduct are defined by laws, codes or rules Rules for authorship are often defined by scientific societies or journals Many rules of conduct have been established by common practice but are not explicitly stated in law or other guidelines (unwritten standards) For example Policies for use of human subjects in research are defined in laws “I cannot define pornography but I know it when I see it.” (Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart) Slide 8: The DHHS holds that: "Misconduct" or "Misconduct in Science" means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data. (Federal Register 54:32446-32451, August 8, 1989)   The NSF definition states that: Misconduct means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or other serious deviation from accepted practices in preparing, carrying out, or reporting results from activities funded by NSF, or retaliation of any kind against a person who reported or provided information about suspected or alleged misconduct and who has not acted in bad faith. (Federal Register 56:22286-22290, May 14, 1991) Slide 9: “…practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community…” Definitions of misconduct are open to interpretation and most area of ethics have only vague rules. Moreover, the rule change over time (what was ethical 25 year ago is unethical today) We rely on the hope that “I know it when I see it.” Slide 10: Research ethics The moral acceptability or appropriateness of specific conduct and actions that moral agents take in particular situations Fraud Mistreatment of research subjects (human or animals) Accuracy and honesty in recording and reporting data Ownership and use of data Violations of intellectual property rights Interpersonal relationships Plagiarism vs copyright violations Conflict of interest How do you assess the acceptability or appropriateness of a particular act? Slide 11: Ethical Theory and Moral Reasoning No one theory can be used to evaluate every situation All theories pay attention to all or some of six factors Facts Interpretations of the facts Consequences of the actions Obligations of the moral agents Rights of the players Virtues of the players Slide 12: Most of the course will be discussion of case studies Problems students face in these moral discussions: What if this really turns out to be a test of my moral character? If I give the wrong answer, will I be ridiculed? The professor says there is not a right answer, but how often have I heard that? These discussions are pointless because often there is no right answer Slide 13: Rules for class discussions:  You must participate in the discussions Be polite (no personal insults; comments should be made as thoughtful arguments about the issues, not the people making the arguments) One person talks at a time The leader controls who talks and for how long Do not dominate the discussion; If you have spoken, let other talk Slide 14: Two main theories Utilitarianism or Consequentialist ethics Deontology (rule-base ethics) Two alternative theories that are widely applied Casuistical ethics (evaluation by analogy) Virtue ethics Slide 15: The course of actions is determined in accordance with its likely consequences or outcomes rather than its inherent rightness or wrongness.(Consequentialist conclusions that are especially based on an impartial consideration of the interests or welfare of others are called utilitarian theories). We should strive to create the greatest possible balance of good over evil. Promote human values by maximizing benefits and minimizing harm: the ends justify the means and the greatest good for the greatest number. The order of priorities is the good before the right Thus, in order to make correct moral choices, we have to have some understanding of what will result from our choices. Generally focuses on a specific act, not what would be the best course of action for someone in that kind of situation (telling the truth is generally the right thing to do for the greatest good, but it may not be the right thing to do in a particular situation). General moral principals are guidelines, not binding rules. Consequentialist ethics / Utilitarian theories Slide 16: Ethical Theory Case study You discover that a colleague, Dr. X, has published an article containing erroneous information. You are uncertain whether X intentionally or negligently included the erroneous information. In either event, the misinformation is significant in your field of research and is likely to send other researchers down unproductive paths. You are aware of no other problems with Dr. X’s research, and you know that he is up for tenure next year. What do you do? Slide 17: In the case of Dr. X, the consequentialist/utilitarian asks: This approach is difficult because, without fast rules, every situation needs to be evaluate for good and bad outcomes. Utilitarian theories are criticized for failing to adequately ensure justice in the course of maximizing good over evil. What harm or good will come to others if the data is not corrected? What harm or good will come to Dr. X if I bring the discrepancy to the attention of others? What harm or benefit would come from talking to Dr. X first verses harm/benefit to the University or the scientific community (recall, I do not know whether this is accidental or fraud)? Can I do nothing? What harm will come to me depending on which path I choose? What harm can come from publishing the erroneous data?What harm can come from how I respond to the my knowledge? If the consequences from your action turn out bad, did you act immorally? Slide 18: Deontological ethics (rule-base ethics) Some acts are intrinsically right or wrong, regardless of the consequences. Rule-based (judgments are made by reference to rules and rule are based on principles and community/scientific standards.) Moral rules are binding regardless of the consequence (one must do what is right, even if it does not result in the greatest good; the ends do not justify the means) Deontologists are generally constrained by prohibitions; thus, unintentional breaking of the rules is not necessarily unethical. (if the standard is that plagiarism is the intentional use of someone else’s work with out attribution then negligent failure to cite the quoted work is not plagiarism). Deontologist do not base ethical judgments on the consequence of the actions. Strict religious or legal interpretations are deontological. There is one “right” way. Slide 19: In the case of Dr. X, the deontologists asks: This view can be difficult to justify because the consequences of following the rules are not considered. This is particularly difficult if the rules are bad, immoral, unjust or impoverishing to human life. What is Dr. X’s duty in publishing his data and what is my duty now that I know there are errors in the article? Clearly, there is a duty to report the finding accurately. But the deontologists needs to know whether the erroneous data was reported deliberately or negligently. If the data were deliberately misrepresented (and even if they are not), then there may be a moral (legal?) obligation to report him or see that an investigation is undertaken. Slide 20: Casuistical ethics (evaluation by analogy) Compare to less complex, similar cases that are easier to evaluate and have a clear moral resolution, i.e., casuistry. It analyzes particular moral problems by analogy to prior paradigm cases (non controversial), rather than as unique isolated cases. Requires practical wisdom; an ability to understand when, and under what circumstances and conditions the rules are relevant and should apply. Can help decide whether something is ethical and also may give guidance on what to do about it (report the plagiarizer or not) Slide 21: What are the prototype cases that provide the boundaries for assessing Dr. X’s erroneous publication? Is it more like a cases of deliberate falsification for personal gain or more like a case of negligent oversight? If the former, it is unethical. If the later it may be excusable and not considered wrongdoing. Information about Dr. X’s motives are needed to determine which case is most similar. Criticized for results that are unprincipled and discretionary (arbitrary). In the case of Dr. X, the casuistical approach asks: Slide 22: Virtue ethics Focus on the character and moral qualities of the players. What is their history, character, motives, intentions. Do the player have the habit or disposition to act morally and do what is right? There is less concern with rules, standards and outcome. However, rules and outcome will reflect on the character and virtuousness of the player. Virtue ethics can be important where there is a clear violation of ethics or standards. Virtue ethics may be most important in determining consequences in cases of misconduct. (is this a person who made a mistake or is there a pattern or wrongdoing from a person that lacks virtue and good character?) Slide 23: Lacks a “moral minimum” for acceptable conduct Conscience may be mistaken or violate established norms or rules In the case of Dr. X. the virtue ethics approach asks: What is Dr. X’s moral character? Are there other instances with questionable conduct? If I approach him, will he deal honestly or cover up misdeeds? If I tell other, will it damage his character or my character? What are my motives? To see justice or might I gain something from damaging his reputation? Slide 24: Summary/Conclusion: Consequentialist ethics Deontological ethics (rule-base ethics) Casuistical ethics (evaluation by analogy) Virtue ethics In research, no one theory of ethics is appropriate all the time and usually some aspect of all approaches are necessary. Understanding the theories may be useful in making final judgments about the ethics of a specific situation. Slide 25: Next week: Read Chapter 6 Use of Animals in Biomedical Experimentation Fill out form for case studies 6.3

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