Graduate Research Ethics:  Spring 1999
GSC 640/PHI 640

Time: Tuesdays, 5:15pm-6:50pm
Location: 322 Clemens Hall

Instructor: Barry Smith,

Department of Philosophy (645-2444 Ext. 7ll),

Office hours: Tu 2:30-3:30 and by appointment, 611 Baldy Hall

GSC 640 - Registration #: 119239

PHI 640 - Registration #: 361164


This 2-credit course begins with a general introduction to research ethics from both a practical and a theoretical point of view. A series of specific topics in the field of research ethics will then be addressed, in part through lectures by BS, in part through debates with invited specialists and through class discussions. In the later part of the course a series of student debates will be organized (a list of sample topics is appended below). The aim of the course is to provide the skills needed to enable a rational consideration of ethical issues in science, to provide a thorough grounding in the wider intellectual context of scientific research, and to prepare students for some of the ethical problems they will meet in their future research.


The grade for the course will be determined on the basis of: 1. submission of a written essay (75%) and 2. participation in one of the student debates scheduled from March 23 to April 20 (25%). The essay deadline is April 20. Additional credit (up to 25%) can be gained through active participation in class discussions.


Jan. 19 The Practical Importance of Research Ethics. The role of ethics review boards. The ethics infrastructure of grant writing. Problems with human subjects testing. (Special Lecture by Professor Scott DeVito, UB Department of Philosophy)

Jan. 26 What is Ethics? A brief survey of alternative ethical theories. Paradoxes of utilitarianism as applied to scientific and technological research.  On the moral obligations of the scientist. Case studies: Corpses as crash-test dummies. The rights of animals and human beings. Cloning and experimentation with human embryos.

Feb. 2 What is Scientific Research? What is science? Popper=s views. Scientific realism. Scientific truth. Scientific progress. Originality. Problems of scientific research: plagiarism, fraud, 'pure' science and its real-world applications, science and war. Public and private research. Issues of intellectual property. Preliminary assignment of topics for student debates.

Feb. 9 Active and Passive Euthanasia: debate with Professor Dan Barwick (SUNY Alfred). For rules of debate see: /smith/courses98/rules.htm.

Feb. 16 Gender Issues in Scientific Research with Professor Scott DeVito (UB Dept of Philosophy)

Feb. 23 The Institutions of Scientific Research. Academic Freedom. The Tenure System. The Peer Review System. Affirmative Action, Diversity and Equity Issues. The Sociology of Science. Science Studies and the Sokal Affair

Mar. 2 Informed Consent: Legal and Clinical Aspects, with Professors Stephen Wear and Gerry Logue (Department of Philosophy and UB Medical School).

Mar. 16 The Concepts of Health and Disease: debate with Professor Scott DeVito (Dept. of Philosophy)

Mar. 23 Cultural Factors in Research Ethics: debate with Brenda A. Miller, Director, UB Center for Research on Urban Social Work

Mar. 30 Genetic Engineering: Lisa Peterangelo, Jason Swedene
Libertarianism and Drugs: Justine Eckler, Youngjae Jee

Apr. 6 Science and the Holocaust: Brian Bosela, Marieke Jonkman, Sheryl Chow, Jin Yan, Amy Fitzpatrick, Ryan Forrestel

Apr. 13 Artificial Intelligence: Gordon Gattie, Lori Bartholomew
            The Right to Die: Marcia Boehmke, Sue Salzman

Apr. 20 Deadline for submission of essays.
           Universal Health Care: Manos Mithal, Sam Reyes
           Cloning: Wenscheng Liu, Linmin Shang

Apr. 27 Special Guest Lecture by Professor Agnieszka Lekka (Department of Philosophy, Catholic University of Lublin): Defending the Right to Ignorance

READINGS (first sample list):

Steven J. Milloy, Science Without Sense: The Risky Business of Public Health Research

Leon R. Kass and James Q. Wilson, The Ethics of Human Cloning

NIH Institutional Review Board (IRB) Guidebook (the Appendix to this work contains a thorough bibliography on human subjects experimentation)

H. E. Frech III, Competition and Monopoly in Medical Care

Kenneth M. Brown, Downsizing Science

E. A. Krause, Death of the Guilds

James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1986.

Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd ed., Cambridge/New York : Cambridge University Press, 1993.


Medical Ethics

Human subjects/participants and research ethics

Junk Science

Research Ethics & Techniques

Ethics Updates

Ethics Resources for Researchers

Sample Topics for Student Debates

Universal Health Care
Science and Multiculturalism
Science and Gender
Science and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Government vs. the Free Market in Science Policy
Ethical Aspects of Smoking and Health
Libertarianism and Drug Use
Fast Tracking
HMOs and the Patient=s Bill of Rights
The Human Genome Project
Copyrighting Genes
Science and Junk Science in the Law
Science and Economics
Forbidden Knowledge: Are there things we should not know?
Science and the Holocaust
Science and the Military
Public and Private Science
Science and Journalism
Science and the FDA
Genetic Engineering
Animal Experimentation