The University of Southampton
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UOSM6001 Ethics in Science, Engineering, and Technology (Jekyll and Hyde) for Masters and PhD students

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

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
Assessment tasks36
Lecture20
Seminar22
Assessment tasks70
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

Assessment Strategy

Assessment will be done in a number of ways: a) The debates (40% of mark), assessed by peers and academic staff and marked in terms of quality of presentation and engagement with the production of the materials presented. b) Written briefing document on the ethical factors in relation to an aspect of scientific discovery from a selection of topics (40% of mark) c) Additional Essay (20% of mark), students taking this module at FHEQ Level 7 will be required to submit an additional essay (4 type-written pages) describing the ethical aspects of a research area or a method of research practice. They are encouraged to comment on a topic related to their MSc or PhD research project. One of the goals of this unit is to encourage peer learning by participation in the seminar/workshop sessions and the debates. Students will also have an active role in assessing the work of their peers through continuous assessment of seminar participation and the debates.

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Briefing document 40%
Debate participation and documents 40%
Essay 20%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%
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