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Syllabus and Assignments for Science and Engineering Ethics (SEE)


Syllabus and assignments for the Science and Engineering Ethics Course taught by Caroline Whitbeck in 2002

Major Course Topics for Fall 2002

August 29 - September 5
Introduction to Responsibility for Safety, and the Responsibility for Research Integrity
September 10 - September 19
Professional Responsibility II: Safety
September 24 - October 4
Rights and Responsibilities in Workplace Relationships
October 8 - October 10
October 15 - October 24
Software and Other Digital Information: Property Rights , Speech, Privacy and Security in the Cyberspace Environment
October 29 - November 26
Responsibility for Research Integrity
December 3
Responsibility for the Environment
December 5
Final Projects

Assignments Quick List - Please check details in the body of syllabus

Go back to the Science and Engineering Ethics (SEE) Course Homepage

Introduction to Responsibility for Safety, and the Responsibility for Research Integrity

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Aug. 27

Overview of course topics, Moral problems that face scientists and engineers, Moral/ethical relevance, Moral and non-moral values, NSPE BER discussion cases-Discussion of mini-project to be presented on Sept. 19

Aug. 29

Engineering Societies' codes of ethics and other ethical guidelines; Ethical judgments of the actions of engineers by the Board of Ethical Review (BER) of the National Society for Professional Engineering (NSPE)-the NSPE Code of Ethics.

1. Read  Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research (Hereafter "EEPR") Introduction, Part 1 pp. 1 to 11. Be prepared to explain the meaning of the concepts written in bold.

2. Read EEPR "Making and Assessing Ethical Judgments" in Ch. 1 (pp. 70-71) and Ch. 2, pp. 74-82. Be prepared to discuss this reading, especially the two cases (Commission Payment Under a Marketing Agreement, Gifts to Foreign Officials) and the NSPE cases (NSPE Case No. 76-6,NSPE Case No. 78-7) on which they are based —together with relevant portions of the NSPE Code of Ethics. Compare the NSPE code with the code or guidelines of some other professional society. (Do not choose the ACM Code of Ethics, because we will examine it in the next session, but you may want to use the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice from the IEE-CS/ACM. This may be one of those in the Codes Section of the Online Ethics Center, or one you obtain elsewhere. Be prepared to summarize your comparison in class.

ASSIGNMENT 1 due by email by 9 AM today 8/29

Write up a brief discussion (100-200 words) of the reasoning and judgment of NSPE's Board of Ethical Review ("BER") on the two cases and send it to the instructor (

Required Materials (as above):

For Further Reading:

Sept. 3

Decide on remainder of course topics. Professional responsibility, Ethical standards and paradigm cases in various professions; Comparison of the responsibility for safety and the responsibility for the Integrity of Research Results; Professional societies in science and engineering; The National Academies' (NAS, NAE, IOM); Discussion of course project and mini-project using plagiarism cases as examples of problem situations. The cases accompanying the ACM code.

1. Read the rest of Ch. 2 (to pp. 107). Skim Introduction to Ethical Concepts, Part 3, evaluate the statement: You can learn basic moral rules and values as a child, but it requires a mature intelligence to understand and exercise complex responsibilities, such as moral responsibilities and come to class prepared to discuss your evaluation.

ASSIGNMENT 2 due by email by Saturday morning 8/31

Write a brief discussion (100-200 words each) of the reasoning and judgment of the NSPE BER in three of the cases in second part of Ch. 2. (see links below) - or three of the nine cases that accompany the ACM Code of Ethics. (You will find these cases, together with the ACM code in a pdf file here and the ACM code by itself is available on the OEC.

Notice that the Board of Ethical Review (BER) of the NSPE limits itself to making a judgment on whether certain actions are ethical or unethical on the basis of how they measure up against the NSPE Code of Ethics. Consider both the content of their judgment, and the reasons they give for it.

Send your discussion to by Saturday morning. Later in the course we will use Web conferencing software and, therefore use the Web most of the time, rather than email.)

Required Web Reading (as above):

Sept. 5.

Introduction to the Responsibility for Research Integrity - Class discussion of the history of awareness of professional responsibilities of scientists and engineers, including the responsibility for human research subjects and for research integrity Video- Do Scientists Cheat? to be shown in class. After the video screening, you will work in groups or two or three to write a brief statement (100-300 words) about the suggestions or guidelines given in the video for identifying or curtailing the subtler kind of failing that jeopardize scientific integrity. Email the group's statement to the instructor by Friday Sept. 6, with a copy to each of your group members. (The video also describes some gross misconduct, such as simply making up [fabricating] research results, but those are less important for our purposes.)

ASSIGNMENT 3 (3 parts) due by email by 10 PM Wednesday Sept. 4

Send the instructor,, an example of a situation (from your experience, from the news, or elsewhere) that raises the issue of research integrity. These can be extreme cases in which research results were fabricated or falsified, or subtler matters.

1. Bring to class an example of a right with your proposed classification of it.

2. Prepare a brief scenario dealing either with safety or with the recording, selection, or interpretation of data for the mini-project that you will be doing. Instructions for mini-project

3. Read EEPR Introduction, Part 2

For Further Reading:

Professional Responsibility II: Safety

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The Responsibility for Safety 1, Safety cases, application of ethical concepts from Part 1 and 2 of Introduction on Concepts to safety issues, and discussion of rights and human rights.

1. Read Ch. 3 of EEPR and about the Therac-25, at Therac-25

In person or by email develop a group presentation on the Therac-25 case, focusing on the issue of testing, of the relation of hardware and software, dealing with reports of trouble in use with patients or some other aspect of the case, prepare to make a group presentation for Tuesday on the aspect you discussed.

ASSIGNMENT 4 due by email by Monday 9/9/02 9 PM

Send to the instructor a draft scenario that you will use for your mini-project by Monday at 9 PM. Be prepared to raise questions about any concepts from Pts 1 & 2 of the Introduction on which you would like clarification. Discussion of safety cases the pressures associated with delivering bad news, or using complaint channels in cases of safety problems or research misconduct. Discussion of concepts. Quiz next class.

Sept. 12 Brief Quiz

1. Attend lecture by Edward Hundert, "A Practical Model for Ethical Problem Solving in Medicine" in the School of Medicine, (enter Richard Celeste Bldg.) Room E301from 1:05 - 2:00.

2. Brief Quiz after the talk (about 12 minutes) on the course syllabus and concepts through Part 2 of the Introduction.

Sept. 17

Discussion of Ch. 3 EEPR and Part III of the Introduction to EEPR. Read both and begin reading Ch. 4 EEPR.

Sept. 19

The concept of responsibilty revisted; Discussion of the Boisjoly and LeMessurier stories and comparison with other safety cases; criteria for mini-projects.

ASSIGNMENT 5 - in class presentation

In groups of two or three, choose either Roger Boisjoly and the Challenger Disaster, or William LeMessurier and the Citicorp Tower and borrow corresponding videotape. Read EEPR Ch. 4 Part 1 or 2 and review relevant Web pages.

As a group prepare a 5-minute presentation on the case to give in class. If for some reason you are not part of a group, read both accounts and Web pages and give a 5-minute comparison of the two cases in class or send a 500-word comparison of them to the instructor by Monday 9/23/02 at 11 PM.

For Further Reading:

Rights and Responsibilities in Workplace Relationships

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Sept. 24

ASSIGNMENT 6 - Mini-projects presented in class.

Sept. 26

Workplace Rights and Responsibilities: workers rights and relationships in the workplace; Discussion of scenarios for the mini-projects.

1. Read Ch. 5 of EEPR (pp. 157 - 168) and Inez Austin, Protecting the Public Safety at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation

2. Read the Guidelines for Engineers Dissenting on Ethical Grounds in the OEC and consider these tips in relation to the requirements for organizational complaint procedures that you read about.

Oct. 1

On dissent and whistle blowing in the workplace.

1. Review the GAP's Web links for Whistleblowers and consider these tips in relation to the stories of whistleblowers that you know.

2. Read Ch. 5 of EEPR (pp. 168 - 182)

ASSIGNMENT 7 due in class 10/1/02

Comments on what you take to be the underlying values and principles that the company is seeking to promote in at least five of the Lockheed Martin mini-cases in the OEC, four of those should be ones not discussed in the readings.

For Further Reading:

Oct. 3.

Limiting harassment and the hostile work environment Comparison of the temptations and pitfalls for engineers and industrial scientists with those of research investigators: How similar are the moral situations of each?

1. Finish reading Ch. 5 of EEPR (pp. 182 - 193).

ASSIGNMENT 8 - 2 parts in class & web forum

Bring to class an example of a stipulation against discrimination or harassment from some ethics code or guidelines.

Consider the Supreme Court decisions you have read at least in outline in this course or elsewhere. Compare criteria used by the Supreme Court decisions with those used by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review and some third judicial or quasi-judicial body with whose decisions you are familiar, and post your discussion to the Web Conference.


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Oct. 8

Privacy rights; Privacy and the work place

1. Read Introduction on Concepts Part 4 EEPR.

2. Read Drug Testing on a Plant Trip, 1992. What do you believe were the grounds of the Todd Riggs's objection? Was it that his privacy was invaded? Was something else done to him?

3. Read Workplace Surveillance section of CyberEthics (pp.43 - 47). Quiz next class.

ASSIGNMENT 9 - 2 parts in class & web forum by 10/11/02

Read Advice from the Texas Instruments Ethics Office on Individual Privacy, and compare their advice with the advice or guidelines that you have encountered on that subject in your own work experience or at Case.

Oct. 10 - Brief quiz

Brief quiz (about 12 minutes) at the beginning of class, on concepts through Part 4 of the Introduction and those we have introduced thusfar in the course; How is digital information like or unlike other intellectual property. Video of a talk on digital information as property by Prof. Randall Davis at MIT (with univited guest appearance of Richard Stallman).

Legal and ethical concepts and the relationship between legal and ethical considerations, Privacy and digital information, Privacy and medical research, Privacy and the Internet.

Software and Other Digital Information: Property Rights, Speech, Privacy and Security in the Cyberspace Environment

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Oct. 15

What are the reasons for giving legal recognition to intellectual property rights? How does property in the form of digital information differ from other Property?

1. Read selections from Ch. 1 "Intellectual Property and Cyberspace" in CyberEthics (pp.1-24 and 34-38, skipping their "Ethical Analysis" section, which is worthless.) Problems from that Chapter will be assigned to due Oct. 17.

2.Read "Forget the CD: consumers now buy music online" by Daniel B. Wood (Christian Science Monitor (hereafter: "CSM"), July 12, 2002 pp 1 and 4).

3. Examine TI's ethical advice on software piracy and on software use and compare these to some other organization's policies about software or digitalized information generally.

Be prepared to discuss what makes digitalized information different from other property, and the morally relevant considerations that apply in various contexts.

Oct. 17

Continued discussion of "Intellectual Property and Cyberspace,"; Discussion of final projects.

ASSIGNMENT 10 due in class 10/17/02

Problems 2, 3, 5, 6 on pp. 38-40 of CyberEthics and read in connection with #6.


Read the executive summary of the IOM report "Integrity in Scientific Research", and be prepared to report to the class on it.

FALL BREAK October 18 - 22

Oct. 24

Ways of approaching the understanding of ethical problems, ideas and illusions of "ethical analysis" Cyberspeech: freedom of speech, liable, and community values in a world-wide community.

Read "Cyberspeech" in CyberEthics and look over the Web site at: and its discussion of legal liability of Web sites like itself at

Instructions for Final Projects

Responsibility for Research Integrity

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Oct. 29

Democracy and Cyberspace

1. Read "Democracy and Cyberspace" in CyberEthics

Oct. 31

Encryption: Privacy, crime fighting, and national security

1. Read and pp. 47 - 80 in CyberEthics.

ASSIGNMENT 11 due in class 10/31/02

Choose two or three problems from the text that fit yor own interests, do them and be prepared to report on them in class.

Nov. 5 and 7

Misconduct with respect to data in teh physical sciences; Definitions of research misconduct and approaches to controlling it.

Read Chapter 6 in EEPR

Read about the case of high energy physicist Victor Ninov "Atomic Lies" by Richard Monastersky in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Hereafter "the Chronicle") August 16, 2002 (handout)

Read handouts on Ninov and Schon cases.

Read the series of articles on the Chad Mirkin case from the Chronicle publshed in summer 2002.

Nov. 7

Read about the case of high energy physicist Victor Ninov "Atomic Lies" by Richard Monastersky in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Hereafter "the Chronicle") August 16, 2002 (handout)

Read handouts on Ninov and Schon cases.

Read the series of articles on the Chad Mirkin case from the Chronicle publshed in summer 2002.

Finish Chapter 6 in EEPR , including the example of Robert Milkman's famous "oil drop" experiment and read the new research misconduct defintion at Notice what it says about recklessness and that it includes research proposals. Notice that it, unlike previous versions, this definition of research misconduct includes behavior in reviewing research, and it includes reckless behavior as well as intentional malfeasance.

Nov. 12

Problems of professional responsibility regarding research data

Read on responsible treatment of data

Nov. 14

Read EEPR Ch. 9

Nov. 19

Responsible Authorship, Citation, and Acknowledgment

Read on responsible authorship

Nov. 21

Conflict of Interests and Conflicting Commitments in Publication and Grant Reviewing Read Responsibilities in the Editing and Reviewing of Journals and Grant Applications

Nov. 26

Conflict of Interests and Conflicting Commitments in Publication and Grant Reviewing

The Supervisor-Trainee Relationship The Supervisor-Trainee Relationship and on the hidden curriculum.


Responsibility for the Environment and Final Projects

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Dec. 3

Responsibility for the Environment :Does regard for the moral standing of non-humans creatures underlie our responsibility for the environment? What the examples of acid rain, erosion of the ozone layer, and toxic contamination teach us about the responsibilities of scientists and engineers that must be addressed to protect the environment. Begin presentation of final reports.

Dec. 5

PLEASE PLAN TO COME TO CLASS AT 1 PM (15 minutes early) to ensure that there is adequate time allotted for everyone's presentation.

Presentation of the final projects: Make notes in light of the comments and questions on your oral presentation about any points you wish to clarify in the written version of your project.

The written version of your final project is due by email or in the instructor's office (211 Clark Hall) by 10 AM on the Monday (12/9) after the presentations.


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Cite this page: "Syllabus and Assignments for Science and Engineering Ethics (SEE)" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 6/20/2011 OEC Accessed: Sunday, December 11, 2016 <>