What Does Silence Say?

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STUDENT VOICES | CHYNN PRIZE SECOND-PLACE WINNER

By Amy Endres

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.[1]  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.[2]  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.”[3]  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.

What does silence say in the United States?

Continue reading “What Does Silence Say?”

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: September 22, 2017

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Politics

Donald Trump’s Lies and Obstruction Will End His Presidency, Ex-Ethics Chief Says
“A former White House ethics chief says that Donald Trump would likely be impeached if it is proven he sought to obstruct justice by firing ex-FBI Director James Comey in hopes of ending his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”

Public servants hiring spouses, mothers, brothers, lovers: Is it ethical?
“Mississippi’s public servants frequently seek advice from the state Ethics Commission.”

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.”

To Wipe Out Corruption, Look to Philadelphia
“The city went almost a decade without a single corruption scandal. What’s its secret?”

Bioethics/Medical Ethics and Research Ethics

Take stock of research ethics in human genome editing
“Progress in the use of CRISPR–Cas9 for human germline editing highlights some pressing ethical considerations for research on embryos.”

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?”

Artificial Human Embryos Are Coming, and No One Knows How to Handle Them
“Stem cells can be coaxed to self-assemble into structures resembling human embryos.”

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 is Your Health Worth to You?
“Exorbitant drug pricing and bad experimental medicine result from putting health care up for sale.”

Business Ethics

We Shouldn’t Always Need a “Business Case” to Do the Right Thing
Corporations should continue to increase and advocate for ethical initiatives. However, the reasoning for supporting these projects should not focus solely on business benefits.

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.”

The ethics of advertising hate speech
“ASU marketing professor shares insights on Facebook, Google advertising practices.”

Technology and Ethics

AI Research Is In Desperate Need Of An Ethical Watchdog
An updated set of guidelines and regulations is needed to keep pace with the advancement of artificial intelligence and prevent good-intentioned researchers from causing more social ills than they fix.

What Germany’s Document on Autonomous Driving Says about the Ethics of Automotive Tech
“A new document put together by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure aims to preemptively address many of the practical and ethical concerns that autonomous driving will present.”

The Analytics Challenge: Timing, Talent, Value and Ethics
“Healthcare analytics is evolving to a greater focus on analyzing data using prescriptive analytics and providing proactive solutions.”

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?”

Educational/Academic Ethics

Academic Ethics: Is ‘Diversity’ the Best Reason for Affirmative Action?
“Does racial and ethnic diversity really enhance the educational experience?”

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.”

Miscellaneous Ethics and Society

Yes, Ethics Still Matter in an Emergency
“Storm victims aren’t breaking the law by “looting” needed food. But they should try to pay later.”

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.”

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: August 18, 2017

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Politics

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.”

Trump’s Washington DC hotel turns $2m profit amid ethics concerns
“Donald Trump’s company is said to have taken home nearly $2m in profits this year at its extravagant hotel in Washington, DC – amid ethics concerns stemming from the President’s refusal to fully divest from his businesses while he is in office.”

3 representatives want to officially censure Trump after Charlottesville
“In response to Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, three Democrats want to censure the president.”

Does Trump’s Slippery Slope Argument About Confederate Statues Have Merit?
“NPR’s Robert Siegal talks with Ilya Somin, a professor of George Mason University, about President Trump’s warning that pulling down Confederate statues may lead to a slippery slope in which monuments to the Founding Fathers are torn down.”

Bioethics/Medical Ethics and Research Ethics

Vaccination: Costly clash between autonomy, public health
Bioethical principles in conflict with medical exemptions to vaccinations

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.”

Exclusive: Inside The Lab Where Scientists Are Editing DNA In Human Embryos
“[Critics] fear editing DNA in human embryos is unsafe, unnecessary and could open the door to “designer babies” and possibly someday to genetically enhanced people who are considered superior by society.”

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.”

NSF reiterates policy on teaching good research habits despite its limitations
“The National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia, has decided to double down on its implementation of a congressionally mandated policy aimed at reducing research misconduct among NSF-funded scientists, despite a new report that notes problems with the agency’s approach.”

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.”

Technology and Ethics

The Ethics of Doxing Nazis on Social Media
“The important question is: does any of this help?”

The importance of building ethics into artificial intelligence
“Understand ethical AI and its role in the future of work, recruit talent that understands AI – and its power to address workplace challenges, develop AI that runs on data reflecting the diversity of its users…”

The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence
“Establish an ethics committee, pursue innovation safely, create a solid foundation, choose autonomy, not regulation…”

“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…”


Philosophy and Business Ethics

Are corporations becoming the new arbiters of public morality?
“After Charlottesville, CEOs have become our public conscience. Here’s what that says about capitalism in America.”

How to be Ethical in the Workplace, According to 3 Philosophers
“Whether you’re a journalist, banker, salesman, chef—whatever your career path may be—you’re obviously going to want to be a good professional. A key factor in being “good” in any profession is to be ethical…”

User Beware: Privacy Settings just a Facade

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By Brenda Curtis, Ph.D.

Social media platforms continue to improve and refine their privacy settings as the demand for advanced user protections increases. Although enabling catered privacy settings to online profiles allows users to indicate who they would like share personal information with, it does not necessarily protect them from the platforms – i.e. websites and apps – themselves. Since social media accounts provide users with a sense of control over personal data, users assume that their information is safe. However, no matter what settings or privacy protections are applied to personal profiles, users do not generally have control over the online platform itself. What this means is the website or app being used usually shares information from accounts with third parties like advertising agencies or other databases. This data sharing is widespread throughout the industry, but it is not generally known by the public. This is partly because the disclosure of this sharing is done in the social media platform’s “Terms and Conditions” Which are often skimmed over or ignored.

Aside from social media websites, there are several other websites and apps that access your personal information via this information sharing to create a single database for everyone in the country. This is generally called data aggregation. One such site that has been in the news recently is FamilyTreeNow.  FamilyTreeNow is explicitly a genealogy site, and compiles information from various legal online sources to create a database full of personal information for genealogical research. This site pairs information from public records such as police records and court documents with the information collected from social media and address databases to create a sometimes way too revealing profile. Not too long ago, most of this information would only be accessible after exhaustive research, but Now FamilyTreeNow makes this information as easy to find as a click of a button, and publicly accessible.

Although the website might be fascinating for someone with genuine curiosity about their own family tree, the danger of anyone having access to information to a person’s age, birth year, address, family members and even public records is something that cannot be ignored. In today’s world, access to this type of personal information makes crimes like identity theft much easier to conduct and can provide the basis for access to financial accounts, credit records and other accounts and assets. For years we have been cautioning users against posting too much information online, but increasingly, due to data aggregators like FamilyTreeNow, this information is being posted without our knowledge or consent on publicly accessible sites.

Continue reading “User Beware: Privacy Settings just a Facade”

‘Goodness of Fit Ethics’ to Promote Health Research for LGBT Youth

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This past November, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R), a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and advancement of the highest ethical standards in the conduct of research, held its annual Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference featuring Dr. Celia B. Fisher, Director of the Center for Ethics Education and HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute at Fordham University. She, along with Janet L. Brody, PhD and Eric Kodish, MD, were panelists on Panel III: Research With Children and Adolescents: Who and How Is the Decision Made to Participate?

Discussing her NIH-funded research on ethical issues in research involving LGBT youth, Dr. Fisher discussed the “interfamilial, regulatory and ethical tensions” that emerge in HIV prevention studies striving to recruit sexual and gender minority adolescents under 18 years of age.

Continue reading “‘Goodness of Fit Ethics’ to Promote Health Research for LGBT Youth”

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: October 14, 2016

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Health Care and Bioethics

DNA database highlights need for new medical privacy protections
Creation of a national repository of genetic information is seen by some as crucial to reducing medical costs and improving people’s healthcare.

‘Big data’ could mean big problems for people’s healthcare privacy
Public and private insurers are spending millions of dollars on systems that can predict people’s future healthcare needs.

Colorado Wrestles With Ethics Of Aid In Dying As Vote Looms
Colorado man says he would like the option to end his life rather than face a painful death and advocates for Colorado’s Proposition 106  or “death with dignity.”

The NIH needs to review the ethics of research on primates
Congress asked the National Institutes of Health to review “its ethical policies and processes” on nonhuman primate research “to ensure it has appropriate justification for animal research protocols.”

Breast Cancer Death Rates Are Down, But Racial Disparities Persist
Women are less likely to die of breast cancer than they were a decade ago, but not all women are benefiting from that trend.

Continue reading “Ethics & Society Newsfeed: October 14, 2016”

Medical Training for Transgender Patients Needs to Include Sensitivity to Social Stigmas for both Gender and Sexual Orientation

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The recently published article on doctor’s lack of expertise in treating transgender patients in The Guardian is an important step forward in highlighting current disparities in healthcare services for this population.  The study, based on interviews with sample of 23 physicians and psychologists who chose to work with transgender patients, focused on current challenges in providing gender affirming care for individuals who are seeking medically supported transitioning treatments, such as hormonal replacement therapies (HRT).

A recently completed study by Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. and her colleagues, funded by the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) confirms the need for greater medical training, based on the reports of 228 transgender males, females and gender non-conforming youth ages 14 – 21.  “Fear of stigmatization is a significant barrier to healthcare among these youth,” notes Fisher, Director of Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education, “and in our study, 51% reported they did not discuss their transgender identity with their primary health care providers out of fear that the provider would not be accepting.”

Continue reading “Medical Training for Transgender Patients Needs to Include Sensitivity to Social Stigmas for both Gender and Sexual Orientation”