Ethics in Science - Fall 2014


Course Components and Requirements

The main goal of the course is to make the student alert about ethics in science. To achieve that, the course incorporates many teaching elements keeping the student highly engaged in class. It includes not only lectures but also documentary films, debate sessions, practicum, expert panels, blogging, and posting web links.

Debate Sessions
For many topics, there is one class exclusively devoted to debate (please see specifics in the “Course Outline” section below). The debate takes place between individual students or groups of students and the instructor acts as the moderator.

The students should be prepared to talk and argue (in a civilized manner) during the debate sessions: They should attend the lectures, watch the documentary films, skim the assigned reading material (book chapters and articles), and articulate arguments for the debate.

For some topics, the students need to provide the instructor with a one-page position statement prior to the debate (please see the specifics in the “Course Outline” section below).


The students can choose among three options: a) participate in short lab internships on human/animal studies, or b) choose mentors to help them in the review of a scientific paper, or c) compose an Institutional Review Board (IRB)/Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) application. The students synopsize their practicum experiences in a short report.

A number of labs and departments provide grounds for the lab internship option on human and animal studies; the most popular site is the Methodist Hospital. Graduate students may choose to do their practicum at their advisor’s lab, provided that human or animal studies are taking place there.

Several collaborating journals and conferences provide supervised peer-review experiences with senior investigators acting as mentors.


Each student writes a blog piece that is relevant to the course’s themes. The blog piece needs to be between 1-2 pages and it is submitted via email to the instructor. All submitted blogs will get credit but only blogs of high quality will be posted on the project’s website. One submission per student is required. To get an idea please check blog pieces from previous semesters at:

Web Links

Each student finds a qualifying web link to an article that is relevant to the course’s themes. The web link needs to be from a reputable news source or a well-known academic journal. The link is submitted via email to the instructor. All submitted links will be graded but only high-quality links will be posted on the project’s web site. Web links that address the issues of professional/social responsibility in science will get extra credit. Two submissions per student are required. To get an idea please check links from previous semesters at:


There is one final take-home essay (please see specifics in the “Course Outline” section).

Extra Credit-Seminars

Students can get 3% extra credit for every science-ethics seminar they attend. Please check the seminar schedule at and talks.php

Recommended Approach

In the debates and in the writings, the student should try to develop thoughtful arguments and comments. He/she should avoid presenting a simple summary of case facts. The goal is to analyze the ethical issues involved in each case study and develop nuanced interpretations. The student should be able to present arguments either in favor or against the protagonist scientists in each case. In other words, the student “should become part” of each historical episode and then develop his/her own personal code of ethics. In the practicum, the student should work closely both with the assigned lab or mentor and the instructors.



ATTENDANCE, DEBATES and one-page position STATEMENTS: 25%;
PRACTICUM (completion and report): 25%;
BLOG: 15%;
FINAL (take-home essay): 25%.
EXTRA CREDIT-SEMINARS: 3% for each seminar attended.


Graduate Standing or Senior Standing or Instructor Approval

Maximum Students : 40 students

Course Load Differences between Undergraduate and Graduate Students

1. Undergraduate students can pursue only the option of short lab internship training (human/animal experimentation). Graduate students can pursue either short lab internship training (human/animal experimentation) or supervised peer review training.

2. In the final take-home essay, the undergraduate students are expected to compose write-ups of about 10 pages. The graduate students are expected to compose write-ups that range between 15-20 pages and delve into the issues at greater depth.