Research Ethics Exposed!
GEN ST 391
Fall Quarter 2012

All lectures are held from 10:30 - 11:20 am in Mary Gates 271 and are open to the community. Abstracts and bios of the presenters can be found below the schedule -- to see, scroll down or click on a presenter's name below.

Presenter Schedule

September 24: Conflicted Interests: Scientific Uncertainty and Public (Dis)Trust with a Historical Perspective
Harkewicz photo Laura Harkewicz (Biological Futures and the Program on Values in Society)

October 1: Recognizing Scholarly Subjects: Ethical Issues in Transnational Collaboration
Lowe photo Celia Lowe (Anthropology and International Studies)

October 8: Ethics Issues in Geo-engineering
Ackerman photo Tom Ackerman (Atmospheric Sciences)

Hartzell Nichols photo Lauren Hartzell Nichols
(Program on Values and Program on the Environment)

October 15: Thinking about neuroethics: ethics engagement in the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering
Goering photo Sara Goering (Philosophy and the Program on Values)

October 22: The H5N1 Controversy
Bennett photo Gaymon Bennett (Center for Biological Futures, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Res. Center)

October 29: Ethical issues raised in astrobiology concerning the possibility of finding extraterrestrial life
Sullivan photo Woody Sullivan (Astronomy)

November 5: Human Subjects and the IRB Process
Karen Moe (Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of the Human Subjects Division, Office of Research)

November 19: From Bench to Bioethics: Grappling With the Implications of Human Genetic Research
Fullerton photo Malia Fullerton (Bioethics and Humanities)

November 26 : Understanding Emerging Technology: Obligations for Proactive Knowledge Production
Ottinger photo Gwen Ottinger (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW-Bothell)

December 3: Final Quiz


Laura Harkewicz (Biological Futures and the Program on Values )
Prior to beginning her graduate school career, Laura Harkewicz worked for several years in the fields of nuclear medicine technology, radiation safety, and medical physics.  She became interested in Cold War history and culture while working on her Master's Degree in American Studies at Michigan State University.  Although she had wanted to continue her education in the museum field, she became fascinated with the history of science and medicine, especially medical ethics in practice.  She chose to continue her studies under the guidance of Professor Naomi Oreskes at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).  She completed her doctoral degree in History (Science Studies) at UCSD in 2010.  Her work focuses on public understanding and interaction with science and medicine.  In particular she is interested in how scientific practice of ethics impact public trust and confidence in science and scientists.  She enjoys incorporating discussions of history, science, and ethics with popular culture and the media into her classes.  She is interested in finding ways to use her historical tools for social change.

Abstract: The Bravo Medical Program was established in response to the exposure of citizens of the Marshall Islands to high levels of radioactive fallout from the 1954 “Bravo” hydrogen bomb test.  The Program was designed around two goals:  medical care to the exposed and research into the biological effects of fallout exposure.  This framework amounted to a conflict of interest to the doctor/researcher, the same kind often seen in medical research – between research and therapy.  Dual-purpose studies were not unusual during the Cold War period.  At the beginning of the Program, when so little was known about radiation effects and nuclear war appeared imminent, these two goals were mutually-supportive.  As time went by, and more was learned about what to expect, the dual goals became more separate and the conflict between them more distinct.  Meanwhile, changes in society – particularly in terms of public trust of science and the state – raised questions about scientific credibility and objectivity.  Uncertainty, furthermore, remained about the science that had been produced.  As the dual goals became more separate, trust and uncertainty became the objects of debate, and the conflicts of interest inherent in such research became ethical issues.  By using the Medical Program story as a case history of the ethical conditions regularly wrestled with in the practice of science, this lecture serves as an introduction to the framing concepts of the course.

Celia Lowe (Anthropology and International Studies)
Celia Lowe received her doctorate in Anthropology from Yale University in 1999 and is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at the University of Washington. Lowe studies the production of scientific knowledge in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia more broadly. Her first book, Wild Profusion: Biodiversity Conservation in an Indonesian Archipelago , examined the Togean Island National Park, recounting efforts of Indonesian conservation biologists to produce a post-colonial scientific practice that was both internationally recognizable and politically effective in the Indonesian context. Her present work traces lines of biosecurity, religion, and global health in the international intervention in Indonesia to prevent H5N1 Avian Influenza from becoming a human pandemic. She is further interested in issues of international scholarly collaboration.

Abstract: This talk will address the issue of US-based scholars collaborating across international boundaries with international partners, citing a series of ethical issues involved in making such collaborations cohere. How can research agendas be set that take into account the motivations and circumstances of all partners? What are the epistemological challenges of working with national differences? How do partners acknowledge and accommodate differential access to resources and training, levels of experience, and funding? How are different national research priorities accommodated? Examples will be taken from the speaker's own studies of science in Indonesia and ethical challenges raised in collaborating with Southeast Asian scholars.

Tom Ackerman (Atmospheric Sciences); Lauren Hartzell Nichols (Program on Values and Program on the Environment)
Dr. Thomas Ackerman is Director of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) and Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. Dr. Ackerman is the recipient of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal and the Leo Szilard Award for Science in the Public Interest, awarded by the American Physical Society. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. Dr. Ackerman has extensive experience in climate research including both observational and modeling studies, with published papers on the climatic influence of volcanic eruptions and asteroid collisions, the impact of clouds on earth climate, and the use of ground-based and satellite observations to study clouds and climate. He is also interested in the intersection of science and religion and the ethics of scientific research.

Lauren Hartzell Nichols began her interdisciplinary training in environmental studies at Connecticut College. While she originally thought she wanted to be an environmental scientist, Lauren quickly discovered her love and talent for philosophy. She double majored in the science tract of the environmental studies major as well as in philosophy so as to prepare herself for a career in environmental ethics. Lauren completed her Ph.D. in the philosophy department at Stanford University, where she recruited renowned climate scientist Stephen Schneider to serve on her dissertation committee. Lauren's work addresses the ethical challenges climate change poses. In particular, she addresses the complexity of ethical decision making in the face of significant, intergenerational risks. She is currently completing a book with the working title,  A Climate of Risk: Precautionary Principles, Catastrophes, and Climate Change. Lauren enjoys teaching courses that expose students to the ethical complexities of environmental problems.

Abstract: Geoengineering may be defined as the act of deliberately modifying Earth climate. The consensus of the climate science community is that human activity is warming Earth's surface temperature though the emission of greenhouse gases. At some point, this warming may produce serious ecological crises. One possible way to avoid such a crisis is to cool Earth by deliberately reflecting solar radiation back to space. In our presentation, we will briefly summarize some of the suggested ideas. Deliberately modifying climate raises a broad range of ethical questions from the abstract (e. g., do humans have a moral right to alter Earth climate?) to the pragmatic (e. g., who should be in charge of determining the “right” temperature?), as well as issues of social justice (e. g., what are rights of succeeding generations compared to our own?) and governance (e. g., who should manage the geoengineering process?).

Sara Goering (Philosophy and the Program on Values)
Sara Goering is Associate Professor of Philosophy, member of the Program on Values in Society, and affiliate of the Disability Studies program. She's worked on ethics issues related to human genomic research through the Center for Genomics and Healthcare Equality, and is currently the ethics thrust leader for the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering.

Abstract: As we work to engineer brain-computer interfaces and other neuro-linked prostheses, an array of ethical questions come into play regarding how we view ourselves (identity and authority), understand moral and legal responsibility (free will and responsibility for actions, even mistakes), and protect ourselves from unwanted intrusions or interference (privacy and security). In this session, we'll consider some of the ethical questions arising in the context of work done by UW's Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, and discuss how we might best address them in the context of research and development, as well as during downstream implementation.

Gaymon Bennett (Center for Biological Futures, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center)
Gaymon Bennett is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Biological Futures in the Basic Sciences Division of the Hutchinson Center in Seattle. Previously, Dr. Bennett helped create and direct the ethics component of the Synthetic Biology Research Center (SynBERC), a collaborative enterprise of UC Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, UCSF, and Harvard. He is the co-author of Sacred Cells? Why Christians Should Support Stem Cell Research and Designing Human Practices: An Experiment with Synthetic Biology . He received a PhD in Systematic Theology at the Graduate Theological Union and a PhD in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at UC Berkeley.

Abstract: In September 2011 researchers from the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands led by Ron Fouchier announced that they had successfully engineered a mutant form of influenza H5N1, “avian influenza,” transmissible by respiratory route between mammals (ferrets). Given that ferrets' immune response to influenza is considered to be similar to the response in humans, the studies suggest that the engineered H5N1 is likely transmissible human-to-human as well. The researchers suggested that the transmissible flu they had created remained as lethal as the original strain on which their work had been carried out, a strain estimated to be fatal in ~30-60% of cases in humans. Several months later it became widely known that a second research group, led by University of Tokyo and University of Wisconsin professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka, similarly had engineered a mammal-to-mammal transmissible form of H5N1. The conduct of the work, the handling of its announcement, and the political turmoil set into motion by the prospect of its publication have raised serious questions about the limits of free inquiry and the regulation of research with dangerous organisms.

Woody Sullivan (Department of Astronomy)

Prof. Woody Sullivan has taught astronomy, astrobiology, and history of science for 39 years at the University of Washington. In astronomy he has primarily studied the properties of distant galaxies. His work in the history of science has focused on the early development of radio astronomy after World War II, as well as the 18th c. astronomer William Herschel. Sundials are a passion and he has designed a dozen public dials in the Puget Sound region, as well as the first extraterrestrial sundial, part of NASA's Rovers that have been operating on Mars since 2004. He has also been involved with many aspects of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (for example, seti@home). This has led him to the new field of Astrobiology, the study of life on Earth in order better to understand how and where to search for extraterrestrial life on places such as Mars or Jupiter's moon Europa. He is past Chair of the UW Graduate Program in Astrobiology and co-editor of the advanced textbook Planets & Life: The Emerging Science of Astrobiology (2007).

Abstract: The solar system is our last untouched, great, and vast wilderness, but we are on the cusp of producing major physical and biological interactions with other planetary bodies. We are like the New World colonists of the 17th and 18th centuries who tackled a virgin wilderness ripe for exploitation. We know where their actions ultimately led – today we are ethically bound to do much better. In this talk I consider various aspects of environmental ethics as conceived for our home planet (e.g., Naess's "Deep Ecology") and apply them to other solar system bodies that we are increasingly exploring and inevitably modifying. Special attention is paid to the possibility of extraterrestrial microbial ecosystems, which may or may not be able to interact with terrestrial life, and how they should be treated. I propose that solar system bodies be protected now, before it is too late, by something modelled on the Antarctica Treaty, which for fifty years has been very successful on our own planet.

Karen Moe (Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of the Human Subjects Division, Office of Research)

Karen Moe , PhD, is the Director of the Human Subjects Division at the University of Washington. She is also Assistant Vice Provost for Research, and a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She received her PhD in Psychology/Behavioral Neuroscience, and had an active federally-funded research program on sleep in older humans for about 15 years prior to joining the UW Human Subjects Division in 2004. She became the Director of the Human Subjects Division in 2007. 

Abstract: Doing research with human subjects raises many interesting and challenging ethical issues.  The Belmont Report (1979; required reading) describes the ethical framework that underlies the federal regulations governing human subjects research in the U.S..  This presentation will provide a conceptual overview of the Belmont principles and how human subjects is (or is not) regulated.  Gaps and difficulties with the current ethical and regulatory framework, especially for non-biomedical research, will be described.  Examples and case studies of recent social science research will be used to illustrate and discuss the ethical and regulatory issues.

Malia Fullerton (Bioethics and Humanities)

Stephanie Malia Fullerton is Associate Professor of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington in Seattle. She received a D.Phil. in Human Population Genetics from the University of Oxford and later re-trained in Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of genetic research with a fellowship from the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute.  Her work explores researcher and participant perspectives on data-sharing, secondary use, and result return in the context of contemporary genomic research.  She holds adjunct positions in the UW Departments of Genome Sciences and Epidemiology, and is a core faculty member with the UW Institute of Public Health Genetics as well as an affiliate investigator with the Public Health Sciences division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Abstract: The pursuit of human genetic research relies on the altruistic contribution of genetic material and linked health and related phenotypic data from many individuals from around the world.  Once “extracted” from research participants, these data enter the lab, are extensively manipulated and widely shared, in order to advance scientific knowledge and (hopefully ulitimately) improve public health.  But the people behind the data points often fade away and this complicates our understanding of our ethical obligations as researchers.  Dr. Fullerton will describe her transition from population genetics to bioethics and how her opinions on these matters have evolved as a consequence.

Gwen Ottinger (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW-Bothell)

Gwen Ottinger is assistant professor in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and coordinator of the undergraduate major in Science, Technology, and Society at the University of Washington-Bothell. Ottinger's research examines the micro-politics of science in environmental justice controversies, especially how scientific studies produced by ordinary citizens can unsettle—or not—credentialed scientists' claims to technical authority. She is co-editor of Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Expert Cultures in a Grassroots Movement (MIT Press 2011) and author of Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges (forthcoming from NYU Press). She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and bachelor's degrees in Science, Technology, & Culture and Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech.

Abstract: When new technologies are first deployed, innovators' understandings of their effects—on the environment, on human health, on established technological systems, on political and economic structures—are always incomplete.  Further, history shows that knowledge of the effects will change over time, as a result of both scientific advance and accruing experience.  Currently, we amass this knowledge haphazardly and react to it slowly, and often political action on serious “unintended consequences” of new technologies is hampered by contestation over the relative value of scientific models, field studies, and experiential knowledge in characterizing the effects. I argue that ethical scientific practice should include a more systematic approach to understanding the effects of emerging technologies, especially as scientists gain the ability to manipulate the world at a more and more fundamental level.  Combining the idea of engineering as a “social experiment” with Iris Young's social connection model of justice, I suggest that scientists' and innovators' obligations include providing for proactive production of knowledge about the effects of their innovations.  Further, to fulfill their obligations, their studies should be designed in collaboration with the groups who stand to be affected and should include clear trigger points for action.