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UOSM2026 Ethics in Science, Engineering, and Technology: Jekyll and Hyde

Module Overview

Building on the theme of Jekyll and Hyde, wherein a scientific discovery can be seen as having both beneficial (Dr. Jekyll) and detrimental aspects (Mr. Hyde), this module the general area of the ethics and social responsibility of scientific discovery will be explored throughout this module. The module will start with the Jekyll and Hyde story (students will be expected to have read the book) and will then continue through the presentation of a series of topical case studies. Delivery will take the form of lectures, seminars, presentations by guest speakers, and formal debates by students taking the module.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Transferable Key/General Skills The topics covered in this module are relevant to those who intend to pursue careers in scientific research and all of us who will be impacted by such research. This module will allow the students to develop a more formal understanding of ethics and the external factors that influence what we deem to be an ethical stance. For example, the development of pesticides has enabled the mass production of food, thereby sustaining a larger human population, however the over use of such pesticides may result in environmental damage as can the increase in human population. Students will be asked to work in group to complete the debate portion of the assessment. Groups will be assigned on the basis of expressed preference for a series of topics. We believe that it is important that students learn to work with peers that they do not know (possibly of different background and ethnicities). In this way we aim at stimulating peer learning and at improving social interaction and a flexible approach to team-work, which are valuable skills for employability. The debates will take place in front of an audience, which will allow students to develop their presentation, communication, listening, and leadership skills. The second part of the assessment will take the form of a policy briefing document to be presented in a format similar to that used by the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology’s POST notes. This module will enhance students’ employability in two ways. First, the course will offer the opportunity to engage in team-work and to improve communication and presentation (both verbal and written) skills. Secondly, interaction with the external speakers from research organisations, government departments, and funding councils will expose the students to alternate employment opportunities and broaden their horizons beyond the traditional laboratory based employment opportunities for science graduates.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • have an understanding of the role of ethics in the pursuit of scientific discovery
  • be able to critically analyse the social, economic, and environmental factors that influence the ethical dimensions of scientific research
  • be able to present and defend a position regarding the ethics of a scientific discovery or an intended new area of scientific research verbally and in a written format.

Syllabus

Themes may include the following: • Jekyll and Hyde – a discussion of science and ethics in the Victorian era • Ethical theories – a presentation of the normative concepts and theories of ethics • The obligations of scientists – a discussion of the scientific method and what constitutes scientific misconduct • Science, pseudoscience, and the media- What is science? How do you know the difference between good and bad science? How does the media influence our understanding of these points? • Funding of science – a discussion of how society influences which science gets done and how the source of the funding may in turn influence the scientist. • Science as social policy – a discussion of how science influences society. • Dual use of science – a discussion of the Jekyll and Hyde aspects of scientific research • Agency – a discussion of who is responsible for the eventual outcomes of science • Gender and science –

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will consist of lectures, key-note speakers and group work that will improve students’ learning and their analytical skills. The module is innovative in its delivery through the cross-faculty involvement of lecturing staff from the Faculties of Natural and Environmental Sciences and Humanities, and through the participation of external speakers.

TypeHours
Lecture20
Assessment tasks36
Assessment tasks70
Seminar22
Total study time148

Resources & Reading list

Robert Louis Stevenson. Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 

A. Briggle and C. Mitcham (2012). Ethics and Science: an introduction. 

Assessment

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Briefing document 50%
Debate participation and documents 50%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%
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