Science and Ethics in Dialogue

Science and Ethics in Dialogue

Ethical Research Conduct and Genetic Information Application

Ann Boyd
ISBN: 9781615047161 | PDF ISBN: 9781615047178
Copyright © 2015 | 163 Pages | Publication Date: October, 2015

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This is a path through the potential phases and avenues of a scientific career, imagining that a person may do basic research, serve on ethics committees, and engage the public in ethical use of new advances in genetics. As a result the content of this text is divided into three parts. The first part deals with foundational material on science and ethics and cases that highlight proper scientific professional conduct. The second part deals with clinical research through which a research discovery is moved to the bedside of patients and the ethical parameters of the transition. The third part sketches the ethical dilemmas evolving from progress in genetic information to clinical applications. Helping students find a moral compass, a grounding of why one ought to behave in ethical ways in their profession and more generally in life is challenging. Doing so increases their awareness and mine of potential dilemmas and how to deal with them ethically.

This book represents my experience teaching graduate students in Biomedical Science at Hood College. Being science majors, the students have a limited background in philosophy and ethics. Most of the graduate students are employed at area research laboratories while also pursuing a Master of Science degree. Their practical day-to-day experience in scientific research is helpful in discussions of responsible conduct of research cases. Being aware of increased cases of misconduct the United States established the Office of Research Integrity (ORI). Their publication, Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research, defines misconduct as fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism. Concern for the breach of public trust with repercussions in scientific funding has led to mandates for courses in ethics for students pursuing a scientific career. In addition, the Human Genome Project megaproject funded Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Research ( recognizing that the genetic information produced by the project would come with applied ethical dilemmas. Teaching can be understood as conveying knowledge from generation to generation. Likewise systems of morality are collective acquisitions built up over millennia with social norms and values that aim to maintain social order. Research does not support the premise that knowing the rules of conduct will prevent misconduct. Indeed, compliance with rules can give a false sense of security, especially if the ethical reasoning grounding the rules is not understood.

Table of Contents


Part I: Responsible Conduct in Research
Professional Scientific Conduct
Preventing Misconduct

Part II: Research with Human Subjects: Clinical Research Ethics
Evolution of Regulations
Belmont Principles
Balancing Principles
Misconduct in Clinical Trials
Recognizing Patient Autonomy

Part III: Genetic Medicine
New Paradigms
Model Animals Lead to Human Discoveries
Genetic Testing vs. Screening
Ethical Issues in Genetic Medicine
Is the Prospect of Eugenics a Threat to Genetic Medicine?
Where Do We Go from Here?

Author Biography

About the Author(s)

Ann Boyd, Hood College
A native of Louisiana, I received my Ph.D. in Microbiology at Louisiana State University in 1971. Following a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, I joined the research team supporting the National Cancer Institute at Ft. Detrick. There my research was focused on eukaryotic cell transformation by viral oncogenes and viral pathobiology. I joined the Hood College faculty in 1982, teaching courses in cell biology, virology, and genetics for graduate and undergraduate students. I served as Chair of the Department of Biology for six years and Dean of the Graduate School for nine years. Following a sabbatical in 1996 to teach at Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand, I became interested in issues in bioethics: how infectious diseases and genetic medicine affect social justice, and how ethical principles apply in international clinical research trials. I teach several courses within the sphere of bioethics for undergraduates and a graduate course, Science and Ethics. The content of Science and Ethics has changed over time as I have searched for ways to equip students with the ability to reason through ethical dilemmas.

Supporting the view that ethics can be taught, I engage students in cases as narratives of ethical conduct/misconduct. Learning to extract the facts, issues, and concepts in the case equips them to be aware of expectations of scientific responsible conduct. Looking beyond rules dictating specific behaviors helps students develop the moral reasoning ability that will be applicable to situations we may not anticipate. Careers in science are often diverse consisting of periods of basic research in areas such as genetics and applying discoveries in ways that promote human flourishing. Students are generally unaware of the variety of dilemmas they could face in their scientific careers. A course in Science and Ethics helps increase awareness of potential dilemmas and provides several ways to do ethical analysis.

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