Research, Ethics, and Society: Case Summaries

The Research, Ethics, and Society Cases provide starting points for discussion of the outcomes of new knowledge and innovation for society and the ethical obligations of researchers to society. Collectively the cases explore several themes in this broad area.

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  • Microbiologists Respond to Bioterrorism

    Added10/02/2013

    Updated08/05/2016

    In the wake of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, a group of microbiologists worked with the FBI to identify the individual or group who mailed letters filled with anthrax to American government officials and media personalities. Others struggled with the issues of whether and how to publish research results of potential use to terrorists. A part of the Research, Ethics, and Society project, this case can be used to address the social responsibilities of researchers, particularly those concerning scientists and engineers and their involvement in or opposition to military projects.

    Author(s) Karin Ellison Karen Wellner
    Contributor(s) Karin Ellison
    Year 2013
  • Hurricane Katrina, Large Socio-Technical Systems, and Social Responsibility

    Added10/01/2013

    Updated08/05/2016

    Engineers are often charged with focusing on individual pieces of a system, but what if the whole system fails? The infrastructure to protect residents of New Orleans from hurricanes did during Hurricane Katrina. A part of the Research, Ethics, and Society project, this case can be used to address understanding technological systems as an important tool for acting on social responsibilities.

    Author(s) Karin Ellison Karen Wellner
    Contributor(s) Karin Ellison
    Year 2013
  • Added01/01/2013

    Updated08/05/2016

    Since 2005, the U.S. Army has deployed teams of social scientists to areas of conflict to develop social and cultural knowledge about local populations as an aid to military decision-making. The American Anthropological Association (AAA) sees ethical problems with using social science methodologies, particularly ethnography, to further military goals and believes that the HTS program specifically violates the AAA’s Code of Ethics. A part of the Research, Ethics, and Society project, this case can be used to address the social responsibilities of researchers, particularly those concerning cross-cultural contexts and scientists and engineers and their involvement in or opposition to military projects.

    Author(s) Karin Ellison Karen Wellner
    Contributor(s) Karin Ellison
    Year 2013
  • Added01/01/2013

    Updated08/05/2016

    Formed after WWII, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Pugwash, and affiliated student groups provide a voice for scientists who are concerned with the social responsibility of their own work, the work of other scientists, and governmental use of science. A part of the Research, Ethics, and Society project, this case can be used to address the social responsibilities of researchers, particularly those concerning public education and political advocacy.

    Author(s) Karin Ellison Karen Wellner
    Contributor(s) Karin Ellison
    Year 2013
  • Added01/01/2013

    Updated08/05/2016

    Students, working through Engineers Without Borders and similar organizations travel to developing areas to volunteer their services in hopes of improving living standards. A part of the Research, Ethics, and Society project, this case can be used to address the social responsibilities of researchers, particularly those concerning pro bono work and cross-cultural contexts.

    Author(s) Karin Ellison Karen Wellner
    Contributor(s) Karin Ellison
    Year 2013
  • Added01/01/2013

    Updated08/05/2016

    The Green Revolution, a period of intense technological change in global agriculture during the latter half of the twentieth century, grew from a combination of political agendas, financial support, scientific advances, and changes to farming. A part of the Research, Ethics, and Society project, this case can be used to address the social responsibilities of researchers, particularly those concerning cross-cultural contexts, and understanding knowledge and technological systems as an important tool for acting on social responsibilities.

    Author(s) Karin Ellison Karen Wellner
    Contributor(s) Karin Ellison
    Year 2013
  • Air Bags, Safety, and Social Experiments

    Added01/01/2013

    Updated08/05/2016

    In the last two decades of the twentieth century, engineers in the automotive industry who developed and tested air bags acted upon their social responsibilities by engaging in the development of the technology, the evolution of safety policy, and public education to improve air bags and the outcomes of adding them to cars. A part of the Research, Ethics, and Society project, this case can be used to address the social responsibilities of researchers, particularly those concerning ongoing engagement with issues of public safety.

    Author(s) Karin Ellison Karen Wellner
    Contributor(s) Karin Ellison
    Year 2013
  • Broadening the Applicability of Clinical Research

    Added01/01/2013

    Updated08/05/2016

    In the field of clinical cardiology research, participants have mainly consisted of white males, ages 20 to 50 years. Years of cardiovascular research that excluded women reinforced the belief that coronary heart disease was a “man’s” disease and development of medical treatments more effective for men than women. How can researchers advocate for change in a complex science and technology network when they are in the network themselves? A part of the Research, Ethics, and Society project, this case can be used to address gender bias in science and the social responsibilities of researchers, particularly those concerning understanding knowledge and technological systems as an important tool for acting on social responsibilities.

    Author(s) Karin Ellison Karen Wellner
    Contributor(s) Karin Ellison
    Year 2013
Cite this page: "Research, Ethics, and Society: Case Summaries" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 10/21/2013 OEC Accessed: Tuesday, September 18, 2018 <www.onlineethics.org/Resources/Research_Ethics_and_Society/27992.aspx>