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.
There had never once been a public opinion poll done in El Salvador until Ignacio Martín-Baró, a Jesuit, set out as the only doctoral-level psychologist in the country to measure the opinion of the people in the 1980s. He knew this would be difficult. He had studied at the University of Chicago, and he was certain that he would need to practice very differently than how he had been trained. But he had still been unprepared for just how difficult it would be.
Much of Martín-Baró’s early conclusions were made on the fact that very few people would speak to him. Only 40% percent of the rich felt safe enough to speak their opinion. And the poor? Less than 20% of the poor would do the speak to him. Less than 20% would speak to him about their lives, what they thought of the government, or anything that could get back to someone who could hurt them.
In his case, silence stood for more than an inconvenience to answer a pollster. It stood for more than a passive distrust of someone collecting data. In his case, silence told a story of gripping fear, of generations of pain, of mothers mourning children slain by an oppressive and violent government.
Silence says a lot, and it’s important that researchers take that silence into account.
I do not present my essay from El Salvador, though, much less an El Salvador in the throes of civil war like my introduction remembers. Instead, I present my essay from the United States. Martín-Baró was attuned to the differences between the countries. He remarked to an American colleague once that, “In your country, it’s publish or perish. In mine, it’s publish and perish.” Indeed, Martín-Baró would later be killed, one of eight martyrs, in November of 1989.
I do not propose that he was mistaken. He was an American-trained researcher after all; he would know the dynamics between the countries. There is far more protection in the United States, particularly for the researchers today, than there was in Martín-Baró’s time and region. However, I do want to turn my gaze to those who cannot freely speak their mind in the United States, and posit that researchers can (and, I argue, should) take on their behalf, if they are to act in the heroic way that Martín-Baró did.
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.”
Neil Gorsuch Speech at Trump Hotel Raises Ethical Questions
“Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, is scheduled to address a conservative group at the Trump International Hotel in Washington next month, less than two weeks before the court is set to hear arguments on Mr. Trump’s travel ban.”
CRISPR and the Ethics of Human Embryo Research
“Although scientists in China and the United Kingdom have already used gene editing on human embryos, the announcement that the research is now being done in the United States makes a U.S. policy response all the more urgent.”
The Ethics Issue Blocking Organ Transplant Research
“The ethics of so-called donor-intervention research are incredibly fraught. How do you get informed consent and from whom? The dead donor? The live recipient—or possibly dozens of live recipients getting tissues or organs from a single donor, fanned out across the country at different hospitals each with their own ethics review boards? All this would unfold against intense time pressure. Every minute of delay is a minute in which the organ is deteriorating.”
What do revised U.S. rules mean for human research?
“Following a contentious 5½-year process, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) released a revised “Common Rule,” which governs federally funded research involving human subjects (1). The updated rule includes a number of welcome changes for U.S. institutions and researchers, and their scientific collaborators abroad.”
“We have made more progress in artificial intelligence (AI) in the last three years than in the preceding three decades. AI is transforming from handy little applications that make our lives easier (from Alexa and Siri to Uber and Netflix) to something more powerful…”