Trying a case on ethics in scientific research

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American Chemical Society


While most prepared exercises for ethics in science programs—including an excellent AAAS video series—present a complete account of the relevant facts, a role-playing exercise is described here in which the participants are provided with differing reports of events. The exercise is based on a true case involving a student who was convicted of grand theft for withholding laboratory notebooks. The participant materials consist of published accounts retrieved from the Internet. After reviewing the assigned materials from the perspective of a stakeholder in the dispute, small-group discussions take place.During the whole-group discussions that follow, participants often find that their positions change. This exercise reinforces several instructional goals from two core areas enunciated by NIH concerning the responsible conduct of research. More generally, students also learn and have reinforced the importance of accurate information availability to effectively make ethical decisions.