Intersection 4: 9/26: Ethics

presidentstandishUrban and Civil

Nov 15, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)


Gateway 125,126, 130

Fall 2005



n 4: 9/26:


Ethics is defined by


as, “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with
moral duty and obligation” and ethical

is defined as, “conforming to accepted professional
standards of conduct.”

As a group, brainstorm answers to the first two questions:


Name a situation in science where an ethical decision must be made?

2) What behaviors/practices in science wou
ld you consider unethical?

Gateway 125,126, 130

Fall 2005



Read the following two cases:

Was Millikan Correct?

Ehrenhaft was attempting to determine the charge on an electron at the same time that
Millikan was. Ehrenhaft’s data led him to a different result suggesting the possibility o
partial charges. He believed that Millikan's own results also supported this conclusion.
The article below describes the controversy that arose....

Betrayers of the Truth

by William Broad and Nicholas Wade

2) List all of the ethical issues in the case of Millikan:

Gateway 125,126, 130

Fall 2005



Controversy about scientific results still exists today. A recent story in Chemical & Engineering
News reports on

the consequences of suspicious results reported out of the Bell Labs.

Zureer, P. “Bell Labs Fires Physicist for Faking Data”
Chemical and Engineering News

, 9.

Bell Labs Fires Physicist For Faking Data


ucent Technologies’
Bell Labs

fired physicist Jan Hendrik Schön last week, after an
independent investigatory committee headed by Stanford University physics professor Malcolm
R. Beasley

concluded that Schön fabricated the spectacular findings he had reported in the field
of molecular electronics.

“In a response t
o the committee’s report, Schön admitted making “mistakes,” but
said he did not intend to mislead anyone. “I have observed experimentally the
various physical effects reported in these publications, such as the Quantum Hall
effect, superconductivity in var
ious materials, lasing, or gate
modulation in self
assembled monolayers, and I am convinced that they are real, although I could
not prove this to the investigation committee.”

”Charged in May with investigating Schön’s results after other nanoelectronics

researchers raised suspicions (
C&EN, May 27, page 17
), the committee found
Schön had retained virtually none of his primary data. The devices on which he
had performed his unpa
ralleled experiments were damaged or discarded. Schön
published identical data curves in multiple figures representing different materials
or devices, the committee concluded. In one instance, Schön admitted his
“experimental data” were actually from a the
oretical curve.

”While completely clearing all of Schön’s coauthors of scientific misconduct, the committee
raised the issue of whether they “exercised appropriate professional responsibility in ensuring the
validity of data and physical claims in the pap
ers in question.”

”Bell Labs, meanwhile, has been going through “a lot of soul
searching,” says Cherry A.
Murray, senior vice president for physical sciences research. The firm has gathered all its
research policies and procedures and a new ethics stateme
nt on an internal website, she says, and
has set up an internal preprint server where papers can be scrutinized by technical staff before
being submitted for publication.”

3) List all of the ethical issues in the case of Schön:



Gateway 125,126, 130

Fall 2005




If you were faced with

a portion of your data that "didn't fit" your hypothesis what would
your options be? (List them all, not just the "best" one.)

) What are the consequences of publishing incorrect data?

6) Did Millikan behave in an ethically in reporting his data? E

7) Did Schön behave ethically in reporting his data?

Gateway 125,126, 130

Fall 2005



In your small group, examine the following scenario

"Mark Sidwell is working his way through college.

A ch
emistry major, he has a summer job
monitoring pollution for a chemical company located on Bedell Creek. (Bedell Creek is adjacent
to the high school and eventually flows out to the ocean.)

He is instructed to collect three 100 ml
water samples at certain
locations at set times each day.

To each sample he is to add 5 ml of a
chemical solution that reacts and changes its color in response to the amount of toxic heavy
metals in the water.

He then checks each sample with an instrument that detects color inte
and gives a quantitative measure of the amount of pollutant in each sample.

If heavy metals are
present, further analysis will be conducted to determine the specific type of and quantity."

"Mark's supervisor, Jerry Elrod, has made it very clear that

he will be very upset if any
unfavorable results show up, pointing out to Mark how costly it may be for the company and the
community if the test results show significant amounts of pollution.

Mark, he says, if we get
unfavorable data, we're due for heav
y fines; and we might even have to shut down the company.

That would be bad news for a couple hundred folks from the area who work here

and their

"Mark finds that, after a week on the job, 98% of the tests he has run are favorable, with no
nificant heavy metal pollution detected. However, in 2% of the tests the change in color
intensity seems to warrant further analysis.

On further analysis he finds that those two samples
contain significant quantities of cadmium and methylmercury ions, bot
h of which are highly

When he shows this data to Jerry, he is instructed to omit the unfavorable data in his

We don't have to worry about anything, Jerry explains, as long as 95% of the tests are

As far as I'm concerned, anythin
g under 5% is an unreliable indicator of a problem.
2% certainly isn't enough to bother anyone about
just leave it out of the report.

"Mark has one of the best paying summer jobs around, and he has no desire to cause the
company any problems.

But he wond
ers if leaving out the unfavorable data is appropriate.

mentions, in confidence, his concerns with you and other members of your group, asking for
your advice.

What advice do you give him?

Be sure to take into consideration the following questions whe
n advising Mark:


List the ethical issues in this case (to whom does Mark have obligations? Why?? What are
the issues involving Jerry?))



(Accessed May, 2005)

Gateway 125,126, 130

Fall 2005




What are the consequence of reporting the data?


What are the consequences of not reporting the data?


Does the fa
ct that Jerry Elrod tells Mark that anything under 5% unfavorable results is
insignificant relieve Mark of any further responsibility?


Do you agree that cadmium and methylmercury showing up in only 2% of the tests is


Does it matter what

the levels cadmium or methylmercury in the contaminated water were?


If Mark wonders whether Jerry's 5% standard for reporting data meets regulatory standards
of acceptability, how might he go about finding out?


If Mark finds out that Jerry's standar
d is not acceptable, what should he do?


Under what conditions, if any, do you think it is ethical for scientists not to report all data in
cases related to pollution? Explain.