Moral Reasoning in Scientific Research

Moral Reasoning in Scientific Research: Cases for Teaching and

Moral Reasoning in Scientific Research: Cases for Teaching and Assessment is a unique 80-page booklet of materials for teaching the responsible conduct of science in college and university science courses. Intended as a teaching aid for science faculty members, the booklet was developed at the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions at Indiana University-Bloomington as part of the Teaching Research Ethics Annual Workshop.

The materials focus on teaching and assessing moral reasoning, an essential component in ethical decision making. Included are:

  • an introduction to our approach;
  • instructions on using the materials;
  • an essay for students on “Developing a Well-Reasoned Response to a Moral Problem in Scientific Research;” and
  • six short (one-to-two page) case studies in research ethics.

Each case study presents a problem in research ethics and is accompanied by a set of “Notes for Discussion and Assessment.” The “Notes” provide extensive discussion of the implicit ethical issues and points of conflict, interested parties, consequences, and moral obligations, and includes a checklist for evaluating students’ responses to the case. Issues covered include data ownership, plagiarism, whistle blowing, data selection/exclusion, collegial relations, and animal use. Links to the essay “Developing a Well-Reasoned Response to a Moral Problem in Scientific Research” and the individual cases in PDF format can be found below.

The materials were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education by Muriel J. Bebeau, Ph.D., Center for the Study of Ethical Development, University of Minnesota; Kenneth D. Pimple, Ph.D., Poynter Center; Karen M. T. Muskavitch, Ph.D., Biology, Indiana University; David H. Smith, Ph.D., Poynter Center and Religious Studies, Indiana University; and Sandra L. Borden, Poynter Center.

  • Moral Reasoning in Scientific Research: Cases for Teaching and Assessment. The whole booklet.
  • Developing a Well-Reasoned Response to a Moral Problem in Scientific Research. An essay for students to read prior to case discussion.
  • The Jessica Banks Case. Jessica Banks has just earned her Ph.D. and wants to take her lab notebooks when she leaves for her new job. Her lab director, Brian Hayward, objects. She wonders what to do.
  • The Charlie West Case. Charlie West, a post-doctoral fellow, is tempted to use in his grant proposal the background section of someone else’s grant proposal. (Related to the Diane Archer case.)
  • The Diane Archer Case. Professor Diane Archer discovers plagiarized materials in a grant proposal submitted by Charlie West, a post-doctoral fellow she knew when he was a graduate student. (Related to the Charlie West case.)
  • The Marty Brown Case. Professor Marty Brown wants to exclude what he sees as anomalous data from a study he is conducting.
  • The Bob Bailey Case. Bob Bailey is a graduate student whose work is not going well. He blames his troubles in part on the romantic relationship that has developed between his lab director, Peter Martin, and one of his classmates, Sarah Stern. Bailey is concerned that their relationship is (a) bad for Stern and (b) bad for the lab, and he is considering bringing a complaint to the department chair. In an extension to this case, Bailey brings his complaint to the chair, David O’Donald. The chair dismisses the complaint because the relationship appears to be voluntary; he tells Bailey to get to work.
  • The Jenny Ito Case. Graduate student Jenny Ito is instructed by her lab director, Chris Holzer, to apply bacteria to pins inserted in rabbits to test the rate of infection for surgical pins; this is not in the protocol.