Mark D. Garfinkel garfinkl at
Sun Jan 30 12:33:04 EST 1994

brownbrd at (Grizzly Adams, aka Eric Anderson) writes:

>The training group I am part of as a graduate student recently met and
>discussed a small portion of bioethics [...]
>I was quite surprised at the breadth of views held by the professors
>and students, as well as by the number of people who appear to have put no
>previous thought into the matter what so ever. [...]
        *I would be less surprised. Diversity of opinion is not uncommon,
even in areas less thorny than ethics.

>I later found out that while
>there is no graduate level course dealing with bioethics, there is an
>undergraduate honors seminar on the subject. 
        *Is this undergraduate honors course part of a major in religion,
philosophy, etc., or is it part of the *biology* curriculum? If cross-
listed, who are the principal attendees? Who teaches the course?

>it is very important that as part of our training we receive a grounding
>in ethics, so that it automatically becomes something we consider at each
>step.  Not just animal rights, but end uses, questions of plagiarism,
>falsification of data, etc, etc.  We are, after all (or at least training to
>be) (mostly) doctors of *Philosophy*.
        *Is ethical conduct an innately *separate* area that has to be
tacked-on to a graduate program in biological research?

        I'd suggest that, if the normal graduate program of advanced
courses, seminars, scholarly research, & faculty mentoring of students does
not already inculcate ethical precepts, then that program is failing in its
primary purpose -- the education of scholars. If others disagree that that
is the primary function of a Ph.D. program, let's discuss it.

        My personal view is that the main ethical value needed to be
inculcated is Respect For Truth: truth in how one designs & performs
experiments, interprets data, communicates with oneself, with professional
colleagues, with laypeople. All other ethical values derive from Respect For
Truth. My personal view is that if a person hasn't learned this *long
before* entering college even, then a few hours of formal "training" in
graduate school or later will make little difference.

>Do you have a program - course work,
>seminars, whatever - that deals with these issues on a regular basis?  If so,
>how does it work?  [...]
>Should we be focusing on ethical training for graduate students,
>or include post-docs and professors as well?
        *NIH training grants awarded to institutions now *require* that
the institution implement some formal ethics program for the trainees. At
The University of Chicago, where I was a postdoc (not supported by a
NIHTG), attendance at ethics program functions was required of all
trainees (including GSs, PDFs, and MSTPs) and was strongly encouraged
of everyone else, including faculty. The UofC ethics program included a 
monthly, I think, series of discussions on many of the issues Anderson
raised, plus an annual "ethics day" that included a set of seminars and
a "dramatic presentation" (i.e., skit), with lots of time for panel
discussion & audience questions/contributions.

Mark D. Garfinkel
e-mail: garfinkl at

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