General Interest Links

When Scientists Give Up

By Richard Harris
Link recommended by Chris King Waters

Ian Glomski thought he was going to make a difference in the fight to protect people from deadly anthrax germs. He had done everything right — attended one top university, landed an assistant professorship at another.

But Glomski ran head-on into an unpleasant reality: These days, the scramble for money to conduct research has become stultifying.

So, he's giving up on science. Read more ...




Jane Goodall Opens Up About Where Science Has Gone Wrong

By Jacqueline Howard
Link recommended by Chris King Waters

If Jane Goodall could change one thing about the way science is done, this is probably it.

In a new video from NOVA's web series "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers", the celebrated primatologist recalls how, early in her career (see above), other researchers criticized her for referring to her animal subjects as "he" or "she," as well as for giving names to the chimpanzees she studied.

"I was told you have to give them numbers because you have to be objective as a scientist," Goodall says in the video, "and you mustn't empathize with your subject. And I feel this is where science has gone wrong. To have this coldness, this lack of empathy, has enabled some scientists to do unethical behavior." Read more ...




Naughty or Nice? When Does It Begin?

Link recommended by Chris King Waters

On the platform of a subway station, a woman and two men are talking a few feet away from the open track pit. Without warning, one of the men shoves the woman. She staggers backward toward the edge. The other man reaches out to catch her, but he is too late, and down she goes onto the tracks. In an instant, he reacts. He turns on his heels and coldcocks the culprit. It is a magnificent roundhouse to the face that snaps the wrongdoer's head back. Satisfied with this act of revenge, he turns, hesitates and dashes over to pull the woman to safety. He reassures her, then takes off after the malefactor, who has beat a hasty retreat. The entire incident takes 20 seconds. Read more ...




U.N. report: Our oceans are trashed with plastic

By Casey Tolan

A series of new reports are raising concerns about the damage plastic waste is doing to oceans -- harming marine animals, destroying sensitive ecosystems, and contaminating the fish we eat.

But experts say that the solution to the problem isn't in the ocean it's on land. Read more ...




Research Ethics Timeline (1932-Present)

by David B. Resnik, J.D., Ph.D.

• 1932-1972 The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health. Studied the effects of untreated syphilis in 400 African American men. Researchers withheld treatment even when penicillin became widely available. Researchers did not tell the subjects that they were in an experiment. Most subjects who attended the Tuskegee clinic thought they were getting treatment for "bad blood."
• 1939-45 German scientists conduct research on concentration camp prisoners.
• 1940 O.R. Two Nazi refugee scientists, Frisch and R.E. Peierls, warn the U.S. about Germany's nuclear weapons program. Albert Einstein writes a letter to Pres. Truman warning him about the Nazi threat. Read more ...




$1.1 billion is merely the headline in momentous California lead paint case

By Michael Yudell

On Monday, a California judge ordered three corporations —Sherwin-Williams, NL Industries, and ConAgra—to contribute $1.1 billion into a state-run fund to clean up lead paint hazards in 10 California cities and counties.

The ruling, in a case that was originally filed in 2000, calls attention to lead paint as an ongoing and urgent public health risk. As Santa Clara Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg wrote in his decision, “white lead carbonate and the paint in which it is a key ingredient are harmful particularly to children,” “there is no safe level of lead in the blood,” “lead paint causes significant physical harm to individuals which has lasting effects,” and “there is a clear and present danger that needs to be addressed.” Read more ...




Post-Chernobyl 137Cs in the atmosphere of Thessaloniki: a consequence of the financial crisis in Greece

by S. Stoulos, A. Ioannidou, E. Vagena, P. Koseoglou, M. Manolopoulou

The background radiation level of 137Cs at the urban atmosphere of Thessaloniki has been increased during the recent decade only due to the Fukushima accident fallout. Since then, no other signal of 137Cs was observed until the winter period of 2013, when slightly elevated 137Cs concentrations were measured. The 137Cs signals observed were up to 12 μBq m−3, mainly during holidays and weekends followed by lower or even non-detectable activities in the next working days. Those episodes are attributed to the increase of biomass products combustion for residential heating as this year the tax of oil for heating was drastically raised as a consequence of the financial crisis. A preliminary survey of various wood products as well as of bottom ashes from different domestic burning devices is presented. 137Cs concentrations up to 11 Bq kg−1 were measured in wood products and up to 500 Bq kg−1 in ash samples. Read more ...




Should cloned mammoths roam the Earth?

Link recommended by Sonia Jiwani

Cloning an extinct species might be possible, but should we go down that route? Julian Savulescu, professor of practical ethics at the University of Oxford, and Russell Powell, assistant professor of philosophy at Boston University, discuss the potential ethical issues of bringing back an extinct animal.

Theoretically, mammoths could be cloned by recovering, reconstructing or synthesizing viable mammoth DNA and injecting it into the egg cell of a modern elephant whose nuclear DNA has been removed; alternatively, mammoth genetic material could be introduced into an elephant genome in order to create a mammoth-elephant hybrid or chimera. Read more ...




VIDEO: Time-lapse map shows all of the nuclear bombs exploded over 50 years

By Lee Morgan
Link recommended by Lauren Galley

Isao Hashimoto shows where nuclear activity was occurring in the year 1982.

This mesmerizing time-lapse map shows every single nuclear bomb that has exploded worldwide since 1945.

Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto mapped each detonation that rocked the Earth until 1998, before turning it into a hypnotizing 14-minute video clip. Read more ...




Ethical reproducibility: towards transparent reporting in biomedical research

James A Anderson, Marleen Eijkholt & Judy Illes
Link recommended by Lauren Galley

Optimism about biomedicine is challenged by the increasingly complex ethical, legal and social issues it raises. Reporting of scientific methods is no longer sufficient to address the complex relationship between science and society. To promote ‘ethical reproducibility’, we call for transparent reporting of research ethics methods used in biomedical research. Read more ...




The role of ethics in science and engineering

By Deborah G. Johnson
Link recommended by Lauren Galley

It is generally thought that science and engineering should never cross certain ethical lines. The idea connects ethics to science and engineering, but it frames the relationship in a misleading way. Moral notions and practices inevitably influence and are influenced by science and engineering. The important question is how such interactions should take place. Anticipatory ethics is a new approach that integrates ethics into technological development. Read more ...




In cancer drug battle, both sides appeal to ethics

By William Hudson, CNN
Link recommended by Rahul Goel

Andrea Sloan's situation raises the question: When should patients get access to experimental drugs?

Andrea Sloan is dying of ovarian cancer. Having exhausted all standard treatment options, her doctors say her best hope now is a new class of cancer drugs called PARP inhibitors.

The California pharmaceutical company BioMarin makes one version of these drugs called BMN 673. Earlier this year, the company presented very early data on this experimental drug at a large cancer conference. Initial results in women with breast and ovarian cancer were encouraging. Read more ...




Paul Root Wolpe: It's time to question bio-engineering

FILMED NOV 2010 • POSTED MAR 2011 • TEDxPeachtree
Link recommended by Shyam Panthi

Bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe describes an astonishing series of recent bio-engineering experiments, from glowing dogs to mice that grow human ears. He asks: Isn't it time to set some ground rules?

Paul Root Wolpe examines the ethical implications of new science -- genetic modification, neuroscience and other breakthroughs that stretch our current philosophy to the breaking point. He's the chief bioethicist at NASA, among other appointments. Read more ...




The Hippocratic Oath Today

By Peter Tyson
Link recommended by Stephanie Cox

The Hippocratic Oath is one of the oldest binding documents in history. Here you’ll find classical and modern versions of the oath as well as a brief article that offers a sense of the controversial nature of the oath today. Follow links at the bottom of the page to post your own comment or read those of others.

THE OATH: MEANINGLESS RELIC OR INVALUABLE MORAL GUIDE? The Hippocratic Oath is one of the oldest binding documents in history. Written in antiquity, its principles are held sacred by doctors to this day: treat the sick to the best of one's ability, preserve patient privacy, teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation, and so on. "The Oath of Hippocrates," holds the American Medical Association's Code of Medical Ethics (1996 edition), "has remained in Western civilization as an expression of ideal conduct for the physician." Today, most graduating medical-school students swear to some form of the oath, usually a modernized version. Indeed, oath-taking in recent decades has risen to near uniformity, with just 24 percent of U.S. medical schools administering the oath in 1928 to nearly 100 percent today. Read more ...




What is Ethics in Research & Why is it Important?

by David B. Resnik, J.D., Ph.D.
Link recommended by Stephanie Cox

When most people think of ethics (or morals), they think of rules for distinguishing between right and wrong, such as the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"), a code of professional conduct like the Hippocratic Oath ("First of all, do no harm"), a religious creed like the Ten Commandments ("Thou Shalt not kill..."), or a wise aphorisms like the sayings of Confucius. This is the most common way of defining "ethics": norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Read more ...




Nuclear energy film overstates positives, underplays negatives

By Ralph Cavanagh and Tom Cochran, Special to CNN

After the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, anti-nuclear groups take issue with a new film about nuclear energy.

(CNN) -- The new film "Pandora's Promise" is a love song to nuclear power that claims to be a documentary, but like all good propaganda it omits key parts of the story, overstates the positives and underplays the negatives.

Built around the (false) proposition that improved quality of life requires commensurate growth in energy use (a recurring visual theme is a globe that glows brighter and brighter), the movie presents nuclear power as the only plausible solution to global warming. Read more ...




Militaries' growing use of ground robots raises ethics concerns

By Andrew Conte
Link recommended by Ruth Tenorio

Published: Saturday, May 18, 2013, 11:00 p.m

If North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un ever orders troops into the demilitarized zone, an army of South Korean robots could be waiting.

A Samsung subsidiary plans to deploy sentry robots to the tense South Korean border. The machines will be equipped with machine guns and cameras, thermal imaging and laser range finders capable of detecting intruders up to 2 1⁄2 miles away. Read more ...




Illinois Biggest Atomic Dump as U.S. Fails to Pick Site

By Brian Wingfield - Oct 24, 2013 11:00 PM CT
Link recommended by Nathan Parker

Probing the biological basis of certain traits ignites controversy. But some scientists choose to cross the red line anyway.

U.S. lawmakers have debated for decades where to put all the spent fuel generated by the nation’s nuclear power plants. The dithering means that an unintended site has emerged: Illinois.

Across the country, atomic power plants “have become de facto major radioactive waste-management operations,” Robert Alvarez, a former adviser to Energy Department secretaries during President Bill Clinton’s administration, said in a phone interview. Read more ...




Ethics: Taboo genetics

02 October 2013
Link recommended by Zahra Pisheh

Probing the biological basis of certain traits ignites controversy. But some scientists choose to cross the red line anyway.

Growing up in the college town of Ames, Iowa, during the 1970s, Stephen Hsu was surrounded by the precocious sons and daughters of professors. Around 2010, after years of work as a theoretical physicist at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Hsu thought that DNA-sequencing technology might finally have advanced enough to help to explain what made those kids so smart. He was hardly the first to consider the genetics of intelligence, but with the help of the Chinese sequencing powerhouse BGI in Shenzhen, he planned one of the largest studies of its kind, aiming to sequence DNA from 2,000 people, most of whom had IQs of more than 150.Read more ...




“I prefer a child with …”: designer babies, another controversial patent in the arena of direct-to-consumer genomics

Genetics in Medicine (2013) doi:10.1038/gim.2013.164
Link recommended by Zahra Pisheh

In December 2009, claiming priority from an earlier US patent application filed in December 2008, the Californian direct-to-consumer genetic testing company 23andMe filed US Patent Application Serial No. 12/592950. A Notice of Allowance for this case was issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office in June 2013, and it will issue as US Patent No. 8543339 on 24 September 2013. It contains claims to a computer system and to a computer program, but our focus here is on the patent’s claims to a method for gamete donor selection: Read more ...




How science goes wrong

Oct 19th 2013 |From the print edition of The Economist

Scientific research has changed the world. Now it needs to change itself.

A SIMPLE idea underpins science: “trust, but verify”. Results should always be subject to challenge from experiment. That simple but powerful idea has generated a vast body of knowledge. Since its birth in the 17th century, modern science has changed the world beyond recognition, and overwhelmingly for the better.

But success can breed complacency. Modern scientists are doing too much trusting and not enough verifying—to the detriment of the whole of science, and of humanity. Read more ...




China recycling cleanup jolts global industry

Joe Mcdonald

In this photo taken Aug. 26, 2013, discarded television sets pile up in a scrap yard awaiting recycling in Zhuzhou city in south China's Hunan province.

BEIJING (AP) -- China for years has welcomed the world's trash, creating a roaring business in recycling and livelihoods for tens of thousands. Now authorities are clamping down on an industry that has helped the rich West dispose of its waste but also added to the degradation of China's environment. Read more ...




US brain project puts focus on ethics

Helen Shen
Link recommended by Dennis Boriski
Unsettling research advances bring neuroethics to the fore.

The false mouse memories made the ethicists uneasy. By stimulating certain neurons in the hippocampus, Susumu Tonegawa and his colleagues caused mice to recall receiving foot shocks in a setting in which none had occurred. Tonegawa, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, says that he has no plans to ever implant false memories into humans — the study, published last month, was designed just to offer insight into memory formation. Read more ...




Report raises ethical concerns about human enhancement technologies

Alok Jha, science correspondent
Would it be acceptable for an employer to require staff to take a cognitive-enhancing drug that improved their performance at work? Photograph: Guardian

Scientists and ethicists call for public debate about the future use of drugs or other enhancements in the workplace. Read more ...




How to Power the World without Fossil Fuels

By Mark Fischetti
New York State could end fossil-fuel use and generate all of its energy from wind, water and solar power, according to Mark Jacobson. Image: Graphic by Karl Burkart

Three times now, Mark Jacobson has gone out on the same limb. In 2009 he and co-author Mark Delucchi published a cover story in Scientific American that showed how the entire world could get all of its energy—fuel as well as electricity—from wind, water and solar sources by 2030. No coal or oil, no nuclear or natural gas. The tale sounded infeasible—except that Jacobson, from Stanford University, and Delucchi, from the University of California, Davis, calculated just how many hydroelectric dams, wave-energy systems, wind turbines, solar power plants and rooftop photovoltaic installations the world would need to run itself completely on renewable energy.

The article sparked a spirited debate on our Web site, and it also sparked a larger debate between forward-looking energy planners and those who would rather preserve the status quo. The duo went on to publish a detailed study in the journal Energy Policy that also called out numbers for a U.S. strategy. Read more ...




Getting scientists to take ethics seriously: strategies that are probably doomed to failure.

By Janet D. Stemwedel | August 31, 2012
Link recommended by Malcolm Dcosta

As part of my day-job as a philosophy professor, I regularly teach a semester-long “Ethics in Science” course at my university. Among other things, the course is intended to help science majors figure out why being ethical might matter to them if they continue on their path to becoming working scientists and devote their careers to the knowledge-building biz.

And, there’s a reasonable chance that my “Ethics in Science” course wouldn’t exist but for strings attached to training grants from federal funding agencies requiring that students funded by these training grants receive ethics training. Read more ...




Carbon pollution up to 2 million pounds a second

By SETH BORENSTEIN | Associated Press – Sun, Dec 2, 2012
Associated Press/Osama Faisal, File - FILE - This Nov. 26, 2012 file photo shows organizers on stage at the opening ceremony of the 18th United Nations climate change conference in Doha, Qatar.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The amount of heat-trapping pollution the world spewed rose again last year by 3 percent. So scientists say it's now unlikely that global warming can be limited to a couple of degrees, which is an international goal.

The overwhelming majority of the increase was from China, the world's biggest carbon dioxide polluter. Of the planet's top 10 polluters, the United States and Germany were the only countries that reduced their carbon dioxide emissions.

Last year, all the world's nations combined pumped nearly 38.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, according to new international calculations on global emissions published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change. That's about a billion tons more than the previous year. Read more ...




Doing the Right Thing, Whatever That Is

By ALINA TUGEND
Published: September 21, 2012
Link recommended by Hadi Montakhabi
Laid-off employees at Enron’s Houston headquarters on Dec. 3, 2001. Accounting fraud led to the company’s collapse.

I RECENTLY found myself in a position where I had some moral qualms about a writing assignment. No, it wasn’t for this publication, and no, I wasn’t being asked to make up quotes or leave out pertinent facts. But I was being asked to phrase things in a way I didn’t feel totally comfortable with.

I spoke to the editor without much luck. I debated what to do. Should I withdraw the article, though it would cause considerable problems to the editor at this late date? Should I ask for my byline to be removed?

In the end, I decided to let the story run. But I vowed I would never write for the publication again.

The incident made me reflect on how things can seem so black and white when you’re outside a situation, and yet so difficult when you’re entangled in it. How do we find a framework for addressing ethical issues in our everyday lives? Read more ...




What about Test Tube Babies?

A set of links recommended by Stacy Nguy

Thirty five years after the first test tube baby was born the debate rages on. An interesting documentary and commentary can be accessed here.

1. PBS film
2. Commentary at the Science magazine



The Ethics of Cloning Methods Revisited

A set of links recommended by Emily LaVoy

A team of scientists at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and the Oregon Health & Science University reported an advance in the treatment of inherited genetic disease (Nature, October 24, 2012), which rekindles the discussion about the ethics of cloning methods.

1. The article
2. Commentary by NPR
3. Commentary by NBC




From Calm Leadership, Lasting Change

By NANCY F. KOEHN
Published: October 27, 2012

SHE was a slight, soft-spoken woman who preferred walking the Maine shoreline to stalking the corridors of power. And yet Rachel Carson, the author of “Silent Spring,” played a central role in starting the environmental movement, by forcing government and business to confront the dangers of pesticides.

Carson was a scientist with a lyrical bent, who saw it as her mission to share her observations with a wider audience. In the course of her work, she also felt called upon to become a leader — and was no less powerful for being a reluctant one. Read more ...




The Back Page
Why Communicate Science?

By Carl Safina

By “communicate science,” I mean professional scientists explaining something about science to non-scientists. My question is, “Why?” But many scientists are still debating whether we should; many see why they should not.

Communicating science takes time away from research, from teaching, from being home; from something else we need to be doing. The time is not adequately compensated. Doing interviews with reporters, or visiting legislators, has no assigned “impact factor” that boosts vitae-value. Appearing on the radio or TV or in the news, giving talks to civic groups, writing op-eds or articles geared to “popular” audiences, or even a translational book for the general public; all count little, sometimes nothing, towards tenure. Sometimes they actually hurt. Communicating science can be seen as unprofessional. Peers may think less of you. It may seem absurd that many scientists would think it unprofessional to explain science, but that thinking is a fact in academia. And anyway, communicating is the job of communicators such as professional science writers. Read more ...




The Third Culture

Link recommended by Arash Hamvatan

In the past few years, the playing field of American intellectual life has shifted, and the traditional intellectual has become increasingly marginalized. A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person in the 1990s. Indeed, the traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time. Their culture, which dismisses science, is often nonempirical. It uses its own jargon and washes its own laundry. It is chiefly characterized by comment on comments, the swelling spiral of commentary eventually reaching the point where the real world gets lost. Read more ...




Reinventing Ethics

By HOWARD GARDNER
Link recommended by Hadi Montakhabi

What’s good and what’s bad? There are plenty of reasons to believe that human nature changes slowly, if at all — all’s still fair in love and war. For millennia, religious believers have attributed our nature to God’s image, as well as to God’s plan. In recent years, evolutionary psychologists peered directly at our forerunners on the savannahs of East Africa; if human beings change, we do so gradually over thousands of years. Given little or nothing new in the human firmament, traditional morality — the “goods” and “bads” as outlined in the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule — should suffice. Read more ...




Inside the Mind of Worry

By DAVID ROPEIK
Published: September 28, 2012

Cambridge, Mass.

WE make all sorts of ostensibly conscious and seemingly rational choices when we are aware of a potential risk. We eat organic food, max out on multivitamins and quickly forswear some products (even whole technologies) at the slightest hint of danger. We carry guns and vote for the candidate we think will keep us safe. Yet these choices are far from carefully considered — and, surprisingly often, they contravene reason. What’s more, while our choices about risk invariably feel right when we make them, many of these decisions end up putting us in greater peril. Read more ...




What's really, truly going on with Facebook?

By John D. Sutter, CNN
updated 6:09 PM EDT, Tue June 26, 2012 | Filed under: Social Media

(CNN) -- Every week, there's a new Facebook thing to gripe about.

This week, there have been two -- and it's only Tuesday.

On Sunday, it was discovered that the 900 million-person social network was "testing" a feature that would let people see a digital list of the people who were nearby in real life. Called "Find Friends Nearby," the app was pulled down by Tuesday morning after the Internet freaked out. Commenters said things like "Hell to the naw" and "BAD FACEBOOK!!" and generally complaining that the feature, which was difficult to find, much less use, invades privacy and will lead to stalking.

If that's not enough, a company named Friendthem reportedly threatened a lawsuit, saying Facebook stole its idea for the location-aware feature. Apparently, Friendthem would like to share the heat.

Item two: A blogger noticed over the weekend that Facebook, without asking permission, had changed the default e-mail addresses of all of its digital residents to @facebook.com accounts. It's easy enough to change back, as the site Lifehacker and others have detailed, but that little invasion of the hub of digital identity -- the Facebook Timeline -- was enough to make quite a few Facebookers fire back at their digital overlords. Security researchers called the move dangerous. Normal people felt violated. Read more ...




Must Watch: An Out-of-Character Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson

Back in 2010, an out-of-character Stephen Colbert sat down with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson at Montclair Kimberly Academy to talk for 90 minutes about science, society and the universe.




Can a molecule make us moral?

Paul Zak is professor of Economics and Department Chair and director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University. He's the author of " The Moral Molecule : The Source of Love and Prosperity." Zak spoke at the TED Global conference in July in Edinburgh.

Read more about it on CNN.com