Chapter 4: Case Studies (Section I - A Guide to Teaching the Ethical Dimensions of Science)
Author(s): Michael S. Pritchard, Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University & Theodore Goldfarb, Department of Chemistry, State University of New York at Stony Brook
From: Ethics in the Science Classroom: An Instructional Guide for Secondary School Science Teachers
The teaching of ethics is particularly suited to the use of illustrative case studies. Such narratives can be used to present examples of a range of significant ethical issues related to some human enterprise and many of the complexities associated with each of the issues. The cases can be either fictional or they can be based on actual events.
In our Summer Institute instructional program we used a series of real-life case studies to illustrate several of the key ethical issues related to science. The teachers found these cases helpful in enhancing their in-depth understanding of the issue and in suggesting practical topics for the development of classroom ethics lessons.
In this chapter we present six such case studies, including five that were used, to good effect, during our Summer Institute instructional program. Each is based on a real case.
The cases and major associated ethics issues
- Overly Ambitious Researchers
- Fabricating Data and Scientific Misconduct
- The Millikan Case
- Collection, Treatment and Presentation of Scientific Data
- The Tuskegee Syphilis Study
- Research on Human Subjects and Influence of Racial Prejudice on Science
- The Search For the Structure of DNA
- Competition vs. Cooperation, and Sexism in Science
- The XYY Controversy
- Genetics and Biotechnology Research
- Love Canal
- Environmental Protection
Each case includes
- A discussion of the nature and significance of the types of moral issues raised in the case.
- Background discussion designed to place the case in an appropriate context.
- Case Study
- A narrative presentation of the particulars of the case.
- Readings and Resources
- A brief list of suggested readings (as well as videos and other educational material) that can be consulted to get a more thorough understanding of the case in question, related cases, and the associated ethics/values issue.
- The Issues
- Sets of questions designed to elicit thought and exploration concerning both the specific ethics/values issues raised by the case, as well as related issues.
Case Study 1: Overly Ambitious Researchers - Fabricating Data
Case Study 1 of six cases presented during a Summer Institute instructional program. Case Study 1 discusses researchers and fabrication of data.
Case Study 2: The Millikan Case - Discrimination Versus Manipulation of Data
Case Study 2 of six cases presented during a Summer Institute instructional program. Issues related to the collection, treatment and presentation of scientific data.
Case Study 3: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study
Case Study 3 of six cases presented during a Summer Institute instructional program. This case reviews the Tuskegee Experiment in which the subject group was composed of 616 African-American men, 412 of whom had been diagnosed as having syphilis, and 204 controls. The participants were never explained the true nature of the study. Not only were the syphilitics among them not treated for the disease , but those few who recognized their condition and attempted to seek help from PHS syphilis treament clinics were prevented from doing so. A panel of prominent physicians was convened by the PHS in 1969 to review the Tuskegee study. The PHS in 1966, the panel's recommendation that the Study continue without significant modification was accepted.
Case Study 4: The Search for the Structure of DNA
Case Study 4 of six cases presented during a Summer Institute instructional program. This is a classroom lesson on Rosalind Franklin's unacknowledged contribution to the Watson-Crick DNA model.
Case Study 5: The XYZ Controversy
Case Study 5 of six cases presented during a Summer Institute instructional program. This case considers issues of genetic screening and other applications of genetics and biotechnology research.
Case Study 6: Love Canal
Case Study 6 of six cases presented during a Summer Institute instructional program discusses individual, corporate and governmental responses to environmental and ecological concerns.
Cite this page:
"Chapter 4: Case Studies (Section I - A Guide to Teaching the Ethical Dimensions of Science)"
Online Ethics Center for Engineering
National Academy of Engineering
Accessed: Saturday, May 18, 2013