Artificial Intelligence Seeks An Ethical Conscience “Leading artificial intelligence researchers gathered this week for the prestigious Neural Information Processing Systems conference have a new topic on their agenda. Alongside the usual cutting-edge research, panel discussions, and socializing: concern about AI’s power.
Plastic Surgeons Weigh In On The Ethics Of Celebrity-Inspired Procedures “And while we’re all for a person’s right to choose whether or not plastic surgery is for them, we couldn’t help but wonder about the ethics behind celebrity-inspired procedures. For instance, what do doctors do if they think a client’s desire for change verges on obsession? Do they refuse procedures or go a different route?”
This past July. an $8.8 million dollar, camp-like nutrition study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was shut down, resulting in a vast internal investigation at Purdue University, one of the nation’s top research institutions, and raising several issues about research ethics and the role of institutional review boards (IRBs), according to Undark. What went wrong? A video of an adolescent girl showering in a dormitory was posted on social media.
The study, Camp DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was designed to evaluate effects of a low sodium diet on 11- to 15-year-old boys and girls with elevated blood pressure. Purdue University were set to host the children in campus housing for seven weeks in the summer.
The University President Mitch Daniels shut down the study two weeks early after the incident was reported to the police and the county prosecutor began looking into additional allegations of crimes among adolescents in the study. Daniels An investigation led by Purdue University’s Vice President for Ethics and Compliance, Alysa Christmas Rollock was launched soon after. Rollock’s investigation, which Purdue University released November 28, shows over “thirty incidents of threats, violence, or sexual abuse among the study participants, many involving calls to campus police. (Two participants were arrested in the first few days of the study.)” Additionally, Rollock reported several “instances of non-compliance on the part of the study’s principal investigator, or PI, Connie Weaver, that may have contributed to unsafe conditions for the minor participants” as well as “various conflicts of interest inherent in the study’s design.”
Dr. Celia Fisher, Professor of Psychology and Ethics at Fordham University and Director of the University’s Center for Ethics Education explained to Undark that “even if the NIH approved the trial design for the Camp DASH study, they would have relied on the university’s IRB to work out the details for the protection of study participants.”
Fisher, who has been working in the field of research ethics involving vulnerable populations for several decades, and who chaired the creation of the current American Psychological Association Ethics Code, said that she would have expected Purdue University’s IRB approval to be contingent on the “gold standard in counselors.” She continued, after discovering the counselors were primarily undergraduate students, “To have a sleepover camp for young teenagers supervised by 18 to 21-year-olds who do not have an adult supervisor there monitoring…I can’t even.”
Because no federal regulations require that members of IRBs be “scientists or know anything about scientific ethics,” Fisher explained, “not all IRBs are created equal…and vary significantly from institution to institution.” IRBs are typically pulled from university faculty and not paid for their work on the board. She added that because there is a “diverse range of expertise” among IRB members that is not well-suited to every study, “They [IRB members] may try very hard to apply ethical standards, but if they have no understanding of the type of research that’s being conducted, then they may not be able to identify all the risks and benefits of the participation.”
The problem, Fisher concluded, with most university IRB members is that the “lack of expertise and the lack of funding that they get” despite being genuinely interested in the protection of human subjects.”
As a result of the investigation, the study’s remaining three summers of the study are cancelled and “all of the collected data will be thrown out.” The biomedical institutional review board (IRB) of the University stated in late November that future study applications submitted by Weaver will not be reviewed until she submits a “comprehensive remediation plan,” including training and oversight by an outside mentor, according to the article.
Weaver, the study’s PI, released a statement last Tuesday that said, “I am deeply saddened by the instances that caused Camp DASH to end early. As the principal investigator, I accept responsibility for events that occurred at Camp DASH. The safety and security of research participants always comes first.”
World AIDS Day, December 1, 2017 National Aids Trust (NAT)
“World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.”
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, as promoted by NAT, is “Let’s End It.” This year, NAT is asking everyone to join the fight to end the negative impacts of HIV including isolation, stigma and HIV transmission. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 36.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2016 and 20.9 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy globally. This year, WHO is advocating for access to safe, effective, quality and affordable HIV services, medicines and and diagnostics other health commodities for all those in need with their slogan “Everybody counts.”
Please visit the World AIDS Day website for more information about the history of the day and how to get involved, support and show solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV.
In a recent study, researchers asked children ages 8 – 12 years old to watch 20-minute clips of PG-rated movies that either included or did not include gun violence. The objective of the study was to test whether children exposed to gun violence in movie clips would 1) handle a real gun longer and 2) pull the trigger more times than children not exposed to the same clip edited to not contain gun violence.
The children were then placed into a university laboratory containing toys, games and a real, 0.38 caliber gun which was disabled and modified to have a sensor counting trigger pulls with the door closed. A research assistant sat in an exterior greeting room if the children had questions. The study found that children who watched the clip containing guns were more likely to use the guns themselves than the children who watched the clip that did not contain guns (median trigger pulls were 2.8 compared to 0.01 and median number of seconds holding the gun were 53.1 compared to 11.1, respectively). Roughly 27% of children informed the assistant about the gun or handed it over and a small number aimed the gun at other children.
For LGBT resources, please visit RELAY (Research and Education for LGBT and Allied Youth). RELAY is a project of Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education which looks to advance the conversation about health for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially trans youth. Please also visit the resource page for creating an LGBTQ-inclusive classroom.
Videos during surgery? Some plastic surgeons go too far, Northwestern researchers say“
In recent years, some plastic surgeons have started posting videos of their surgeries on social media in hopes of informing and attracting new patients. But in some cases, their antics seem designed more for entertainment than education, raising ethical questions, according to a new paper from Northwestern Medicine researchers published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.”
Editorial: SF’s Ethics Board fails to tackle money in politics
“The San Francisco Ethics Commission had the opportunity to pass a commonsense measure to curtail money in politics. It failed. The ordinance would have banned the practice of allowing political donors to contribute to the charitable causes of favored candidates when those donors have a contract up for approval or a pending land-use decision in front of city officials.”
How to Get Away With Murder, or at Least Corruption, in Brazil
“No less than 40 percent of Brazil’s 594 lawmakers face formal investigations before the Supreme Court, the tribunal’s figures show. Forty-seven deputies and eight senators are currently defendants in criminal trials. Just two have lost their jobs over corruption charges.”
Veterans Agency Seeks to Scrap Ethics Law on For-Profit Colleges
“The Department of Veterans Affairs is pushing to suspend a 50-year-old ethics law that prevents employees from receiving money or owning a stake in for-profit colleges that pocket hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition paid through the G.I. Bill of Rights.”
Menendez trial: Prosecutors tie political donations to Menendez meeting
“U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez requested a meeting with a high-ranking State Department official to talk about port security issues in the Dominican Republic on the same day that Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen agreed to donate $60,000 to help Menendez’s re-election and to fight a recall effort against him, prosecutors said Thursday. Melgen owned a 50 percent stake in a company, ICSSI, that was urging the Dominican government to honor a port security screening contract that could potentially be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to prosecutors.”
Why values and ethics are good for business
“It is a privilege to be a trusted and integral part of a person’s recovery from addiction. So, I am deeply troubled when I see facilities cutting corners and bending the rules to increase revenue or profit. These actions are not only short-sighted from a business standpoint, but also highly unethical and potentially dangerous to those who have entrusted us to help them recover.
The Morality of Charles Koch
“For those who regard capitalism and Christianity as mortal enemies, few villains loom as large as Charles Koch, whose name in some quarters has become a synonym for a system based on greed and exploitation. By his own admission, the libertarian-leaning billionaire is not religious. So why would such a man choose the Catholic University of America for a $10 million gift to help relaunch its business school?”
Harvard Business School earns an incomplete in ethics
“Some argue that you can’t teach ethics to a bunch of 26-year-olds. But you can certainly lead by example. Alas, the recent example set by the leadership of HBS shows a blatant disregard for even the simplest of ethical considerations.”
Who should die when a driverless car crashes? Q&A ponders the future
“Should a driverless car swerve to miss a child, knowing it will kill its passenger? Or should it maintain its path and end a younger life? It’s deeply troubling ethical dilemmas like these that Sandra Peter believes will hinder the mass uptake of driverless cars, possibly beyond our lifetimes.”
Ethics of Internet research trigger scrutiny
A research paper that used publicly available data about people’s addresses and likely movements to unmask the anonymous graffiti artist Banksy “highlights growing concerns about the potential hazards of research that uses public data.”
Software engineers must think deeply about ethics
“I believe technology is immensely constructive and, like any power, if wielded correctly, can in fact make the world a better place. I still believe most jobs will be automated, and, in the long run, humanity will be better off from it. But great power must be accompanied by great responsibility, which remains largely absent in Silicon Valley.”
Illegal Strikes and Political Obligation – What Reasons Do We Have To Obey The Law? “I do not intend to address the moral and economic considerations involved in the question of the amount that a fair society should pay to its public sector workers. Rather, I shall be interested in the nature of the reasons that we may have to obey laws we disagree with, and the implications that our answer to this question may have for whether we should support illegal strikes of this sort.”
An Experiment Gives Cash Aid To The Poor. Is That Ethical? “Is it moral for experimenters to bestow a benefit on one group of people and not another? And what are the risks of unintended negative consequences — creating lasting income inequalities between villages, for instance, or even fueling tensions between the residents?”
Bioethics expert says ‘de-valuing’ human beings is 21st century malady “Dr. John Haas, President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, says that beneath specific conundrums that arise in the field of bioethics these days lies a deeper challenge that the Catholic Church is uniquely equipped to address: A ‘de-valuing’ of human beings, which turns the weak and vulnerable into commodities to be exploited by the wealthy and powerful.”
How Much Do A Company’s Ethics Matter In The Modern Professional Climate? “A company’s ethics and corporate social responsibility matter more today than they did a few decades ago. Workers place a higher emphasis on the values of their employers, and have access to more information than ever before. If you want your company to remain competitive in the hunt for the best candidates in your field, spend some time defining, perfecting, and promoting your company’s ethical behavior.”
Business ethics: moving beyond just compliance “Financial professionals have become used to compliance requirements placed upon them by regulators including aspects such as treating customers fairly, anti-money laundering, data protection and anti-bribery policies, to name a few. Professional bodies also have member codes of conduct. However, following historical financial scandals, trust in the financial profession remains low.”
What Happens When Lyft Redesigns A Street “Ride sharing is here to stay, and autonomous vehicles are imminent. But the implications for cities are less than clear… How should our aging infrastructure adapt to these changes–and who should be shaping (and funding) it?”
The ethics of free speech in the Trump era “Universities, as influential institutions, should be allowed to make a moral distinction as to when free speech devolves into hate speech and when pro-Trump political stances may bear negative consequences in the lives of their campus community members.”
Why museums need their own ethics departments “While museums may have codes of ethics that aim (with varying degrees of success) to regulate professional conduct, they lack internal institutional support for sustained research into these pressing and fundamental issues. Adopting the ethics of art as a core area of research should be embraced as part of the museum mission.”