Ethics in Chemistry

Ethics is the study of normative values and principles that govern our behaviors. Ethical reasoning is a deliberative process of identifying, evaluating, refining, and acting upon ethical values and principles. Ethical studies help us improve our ability to identify ethical values embedded in the beliefs and practices of ourselves and others. As a student in science or engineering, you are taking classes to gain new knowledge. The University and Colleges have standards for maintaining academic integrity in these classes that includes rules on conduct and plagiarism (see syllabus for resources). In your courses, you are also learning how to be a professional in your field of study. Being a professional means that you must uphold the ethical values of honesty, fairness, objectivity, openness, trustworthiness, and respect for others. These ethical values apply to your everyday life, coursework, and research. Ethical literacy and decision making are not easy but through resources provided to you, one can begin to become a more ethical individual. If you want to dig into what the term “Ethics” means, the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State has a fantastic summary: Ethical decision making can be broken down into seven steps as follows: 1. State the problem. What is the ethical issue? 2. Check the facts. For each ethical issue there will be facts that are important. What facts are relevant for this issue? 3. Identify relevant issues. Who are the stakeholders (i.e. who is affected by this case)? What are the ethical values relevant to the case? (See the PSU values.)? 4. List the options. What can be done to solve the ethical dilemma? (Do nothing is always an option!) 5. Consider each option: What are the consequences to the difference choices? How is each stakeholder impacted? 6. Chose the best option. There may be no “right” or “best” answer. Usually, though, there are clearly wrong answers. 7. What can be done in the future to avoid the problem? I want you to browse news outlets for recent articles (let’s say in the last 18 months) for a story that can be assessed through an ethical lens that pertains to chemistry. There should be a “problem” that has ethical implications for the environment, human or animal life, or society (e.g. use of plastics, PFOS in water, etc.). Believe it or not, the Twitter feed for some periodicals can be a good place to start your search (Chemical & Engineering News, Scientific American, NYT Science, etc.). You will post a short description and analysis of steps 1-4 to a discussion board in canvas (details below) considering the relevant stakeholders, values, and possible solutions. Please post a short description and analysis of steps 1-4 of the 7-step ethical decision making process considering the relevant stakeholders, values, and possible solutions. Provide a link to the article you found. I would also like you all to respond to two issues with some feedback – is there something else the writer should consider? Other stakeholders? Other possible solutions? Maybe you know of a resource that could be helpful.

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