I'll tell you the problem with engineers and scientists. Scientists have an elaborate line of bullshit about how they are seeking to know the truth about nature. Which is true, but that is not what drives them. Nobody is driven by abstractions like "seeking truth." Discovery is always a rape of the natural world.

Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park

Ethics for Science and Technical Communication

COM 612-900: Seminar
Fall, '14-15
Susan Showalter, M.S.
Classroom: online
Office hours: by appointment
Office: online
E-mail: smshowalter @ gmail.com

Description: Seeking truth is only one of the values that motivate scientists and engineers. The other values that drive them frequently surface when they violate ethical principles. This course is based on the premises that (1) the practice of science and technology is not value-free and (2) the communication of science and technology especially presents many ethical challenges. Through the analysis of case studies and the examination of ethical frameworks this course will explore ethical issues in such topics as:

This course articulates with the content and goals of other courses in the Department of Culture and Communication, specificially COM 510 (Technical Communication), COM 520 (Science Communication), and COM 540 (Science and Technical Graphics).

Objectives: If you successfully complete this course, you will be able to:

Text: [Selected journal articles on-line and in print; see bibliography and Hagerty Library's Electronic Reserve.]

Grading:  This course will proceed as a seminar. As such, it will require you to take an active role in presenting and discussing ideas in class. No midterm or final exams will be given. Your final grade will be computed on the basis of the following components:

Assignments: Each class meeting will require you to prepare a reading and a writing assignment. Most readings are articles from research journals. Click on their author designators in the Reading Due column of the Assignment Schedule for study guide questions to help you focus on their key terms and concepts.

Most writing assignments are opportunities to apply the perspectives and principles explicated in the readings to your own case studies. Click on the items in the Writing Due column of the Assignment Schedule for specific details. Late assignments will be penalized one letter grade increment for each class day late.

In addition to the ongoing reading and writing assignments, each of you will give a formal presentation at some point in the course. Click on the link to presentations for details.

Academic Honesty: It is assumed that the work you submit for this course, whether written or spoken, is your own. Any attempt to represent someone else's work as your own is plagiarism. Plagiarism includes copying another student's work on papers or tests, copying without attribution the ideas or words from published sources, submitting papers written in previous semesters, and referring to notes during exams. For more clarification on plagiarism, see Drexel's Student Handbook. Such academic misconduct will result in a failing grade for the assignment, a probable failing grade for the course, and a report to the Dean for possible disciplinary action. Be advised that internet services such as EVE 2.3 and Turnitin.com make the detection of plagiarism easy.

Attendance: You are expected to attend all classes. Attendance is important to your progress and your classmates'. Much of what you learn will come from discussions and interactions with your fellow students. A formal presentation for which you are absent will be graded as an F. If an emergency prevents you from attending class (such as a personal illness or family emergency), please contact me in advance of your absence. You may miss one class without penalty; any additional absences will reduce your final grade.

Assignment Schedule

Week Topic Reading Writing Speaker
1 Introduction NAS; Writing Science; Sample arguments; Ethical Frameworks, Vices
2 Foundations Davis, M. (15), Thompson_on_Davis (3); Hauser-Kastenberg (11)    
3 Peer Review Kiang (9), Thomsen (9), Souder (11), Wilson (20)    
4 Authorship Drenth (11), Resnik (6), Jones (14) Project 1 Proposal
5 Popularization Rensberger (3); Einsiedel (12), Sabloff (8), Rogers (5) Project 1

6 Plagiarism Loui (10), Bouville (12), Bilic-Zulle (9)  

7 Censorship di Norcia (17), Rier (17), Brown (14)  
8 Risk communication Thompson (21), Murphy (16), Macpherson (14)

9 Informed consent Zaborowski (12), Varelius (12), Elliott (25), Gefenas (8)  
10 Whistleblowing Lubalin (21), Kline (8), Sieber (17) Project 2 Proposal  

Project 2