The written projects for this course will require you to familiarize yourself with a scientific or technical discipline. For each project select one of the options (a, b, or c) and submit via e-mail two weeks in advance of the project due date a proposal outlining specifically how you will respond to the guidelines of the project option.


Project 1a: Defense (1000 - 1500 words)

Scan the sources of scientific and technical news and select a report of some incident that raises an ethical question about communication. Write an editorial or letter to the editor where you defend some relevant ethical position. Find an appropriate market for this review and slant your review to its style. On day 6 submit a revised draft to me and a copy to the editor of your chosen market. Here are some candidates of publications that both report on science and technology and print relevant editorials:

Sample Editorial: "Too much, too soon: How not to promote your latest research findings in the media," Nature 435, 538 (2 June 2005)

Sample Letter to the Editor: "Correspondence: Ethics debate is what put Newcastle paper in the news, " Nature 436, 460 (28 July 2005)

Project 1b: Erratum Study (1000 - 1500 words)

Using Science Citation Index or Retractions Database locate an erratum report and its original research article. From the text of the erratum try to determine the nature of the error; was it an error or was it fraud? Now search the Index for subsequent research articles that cite the original flawed article, and try to determine whether the subsequent research used the original "in passing," drew upon it, or started from it. Also, try to determine whether the original researcher cited his own erratum in subsequently published articles. Speculate on the effects of this error on future research and applied technology.


Project 1c: Popularization Analysis (1000 - 1500 words)

Visit a science or technology museum. Obtain a copy of its mission statement. Note what views the museum proclaims about the relationship between science and society and especially a museum's responsibilities to society. After viewing several exhibits, consider how well the museum lives up to its own standards. Note in particular whether it uses communication in ethical ways. Describe any forces that may tempt the organization to compromise its ethical standards (e.g., corporate sponsorships). If the museum you visit displays human remains or sacred or cultural objects, consider focusing on the particular issues of ownership and repatriation, as Sabloff did. Pay attention in your analysis to both textual and nontextual materials. Here is a sampling of local candidates for your analysis:


Project 1d: Authorship Policies (1000 - 1500 words)

Find a scientific society which has stated explicit authorship policies for its members. Describe these policies and compare and contrast them with those of the ICMJE.


Project 1e: Press Release (1000 - 1500 words)

Find a press release for a recent scientific discovery, then locate the original research article in a primary journal that corresponds to that discovery. Write an analysis that compares and contrasts to two accounts of the discovery.


Project 2a: Informed Consent (2000 - 2500 words)

Obtain a copy of a consent form for scientific research on human subjects. Try to find out as much as you can about the research itself and the demands it might make of the subjects vis-a-vis safety, privacy, etc. Analyze the document to determine whether it adequately covers all relevant ethical questions. Make your own ethical perspective clear and explicit in your analysis.


Project 2b: Risk Communication (2000 - 2500 words)

Research an instance of an organization's product liability. Find an example of that company's risk communication (assembly instructions, health hazards, etc.) and assess. Make your own ethical perspective clear and explicit in your analysis.


Project 2c: Code of Ethics (2000 - 2500 words)

Select an organization within a scientific or engineering context of your choice. Obtain a copy of the organization's code of ethics; see Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science for a convenient source of a variety of documents. Note especially statements that relate to communication issues. Describe the ethical issues that the code of ethics attempts to address? Are any omitted? How would you revise it? Search for reports of the organization's behavior and evaluate it in view of their published code of ethics. Make your own ethical perspective clear and explicit in your analysis.