Archive for: April, 2009

To engage (or not) with the seemingly shady scientist.

Apr 30 2009 Published by under Ethics 101, Tribe of Science

Yesterday, I shared a conundrum with you and asked you what you would do as a member of the tribe of science if you got a gut feeling that another member of the tribe with whom you had limited engagement was shady, either disengage ASAP or engage more closely.
Today, as promised, I share my thinking on the conundrum.
You'll recall from my description of the situation that:

you are presented with a vibe or a gut feeling about this other person -- you are not witnessing obvious misconduct, nor are you privy to evidence of same.

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Flu pandemic ethics: rationing scarce resources.

In an earlier post, I pointed you toward the preliminary report (PDF here) issued by the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project this January. This report sets out a plan for the state of Minnesota to ration vital resources in the event of a severe influenza pandemic.
Now, a rationing plan devised by an ethics project is striving for fairness. Rationed resources are those scarce enough that there isn't enough to go around to everyone who might want or need them. If someone will be left out, what's a fair way to decide who?
Let's have a look at the rationing strategies discussed in the draft report:

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Career conundrum: how to weigh that gut feeling?

Apr 29 2009 Published by under Reader participation, Tribe of Science

The other night as I was falling asleep, a situation occurred to me that struck me as something of a conundrum. (Remarkably, I still remembered the situation when I woke up.) I've been working out my own take on this situation -- what's at stake in responding to it one way or another -- but I wanted to canvass the commentariat for responses before I put my own analysis out there.
Here's the situation:

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Math and science versus femininity.

Dr. Isis has some rollicking good discussions going on at her pad about who might care about blogs, and what role they might play in scientific education, training, and interactions. (Part one, part two.)
On the second of these posts, a comment from Pascale lodged itself in my brain:

I think a lot of impressionable girls, especially in that middle-school age group, get the idea that they can't be good at science or math if they like clothes, makeup, and boys. Is it the science/math sterotype that is the problem, or is it that girls make other choices to pursue these alternate interests? "I want to be pretty, so I don't want to be a scientist, etc" or is it "I'm bad at math and science, so I should be pretty and study art."
Girls' test scores and grades don't fall behind boys in these subjects until that age, and I find it hard to believe that girls suddenly lose the ability to do math and science. If more positive role models were present, then girls might see that they can study science and be feminine as well. I think that may be the real issue to closing the gender gap in the sciences.

This has me wondering.

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Ethics in planning for a flu pandemic.

In my last post, I looked at some of the ethical considerations an individual might make during a flu epidemic. My focus was squarely on the individual's decisions: whether to stay in bed or seek medical care, whether to seek aid from others, etc. This is the kind of everyday ethics that crops up for most of us as we try to get through our days.
If you're someone who is responsible for keeping health care infrastructure or other state resources in good working order, however, the ethical landscape of a major flu epidemic looks quite different.

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Swine flu outbreaks and the ethics of being sick.

Apr 27 2009 Published by under Current events, Ethics 101, Medicine

Like a lot of other people, I'm watching the swine flu outbreaks unfold with some interest. As they do, I can't help but think about the ethical dimensions of our interactions with other humans, since it's looking like any of us could become a vector of disease.
There are some fairly easy ethical calls here -- for example, if you're sick and can avoid spreading your germs, you should avoid spreading them. But there are some other questions whose answers are not as clear.

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Ask a silly question ...

Ah, Spring! The time of year when children wear sandals and then admonish their siblings not to pick their toes on the way to pot-luck dinners.
Yesterday's toe picking prompted me to tweet a question that was mostly facetious:

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Swine flu and air travel.

Apr 26 2009 Published by under Current events, Ethics 101, Medicine

Probably you've been reading about the new swine flu outbreak on Effect Measure and Aetiology. At this stage, public health officials are keeping careful watch on this epidemic to try to keep it from becoming a pandemic.
And this is the news in the back of my mind as I need to arrange air travel in the coming months. Nothing makes me want to book airline tickets more than the project of being in a metal tube with germy humans.
I did some poking around to see what kinds of measures the airlines might be taking to avoid helping spread swine flu and the people carrying it around.

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How to read the "cruelty free" label.

Apr 25 2009 Published by under Communication, Research with animals

Yesterday I worked my way through the hundred's of comments on PZ's I am Pro-Test post. One theme that kept cropping up was that a great deal of animal testing is unnecessary, and that informed and attentive consumers should be able to kill the demand for it.

I thought, therefore, that it would be worth returning to a question I talked about a while ago, in a single paragraph of a fairly lengthy DVD review:

"Why do animal tests continue when cruelty-free products are available?"

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Impediments to dialogue about animal research (part 8).

After considering the many different roadblocks that seems to appear when people try to discuss research with animals (as we did in parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of this series), it might be tempting to throw up your hands and say, "Well, I guess there's no point in doing that, then!"
Resist this temptation!
As we noted in part 7, there are good reasons that we (by which I mean scientists and the public) ought to be engaging in dialogue about issues like research with animals. Avoiding dialogue altogether would mean cutting off the flow of information about what actually happens in animal research and about how animals actually matter to scientists and non-scientists alike. Given that what the public knows and cares about has some influence on how much public money is allocated to support scientific research and on what kinds of laws and regulations govern the treatment of animals (including the treatment of animals in scientific research), opting out of dialogue altogether is a risky move.
Therefore, in this post, I offer suggestions for how to have a productive dialogue about animal research.

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