Friday, November 30, 2007

Ethics by NIH mandate

All of the new biology graduate students are required to take an ethics class. I think, on principle, this is a good idea. Unfortunately, I feel like the class is a big waste of my time.

My gripes:
-We get lectured at for an hour late in the afternoon when all my body wants to do is fall asleep. It is not an interactive class. I wouldn't mind it if we broke up into small groups and spent part of the class discussing ethical dilemmas. Unfortunately, we've only done that once. He spent a whole hour talking at us about plagiarism. Surely he could've found a more effective teaching method.

-On the syllabus it said we were required to buy two books that we have NEVER used. One of them is on biomedical ethics so I plan to resell it asap.

-The guy doesn't speak loudly enough unless you're sitting in the first two rows (and it's not that big of a room).

-He doesn't know his audience (or at least not my demographic of it). There are many ethical issues that transcend disciplines but some are much more specific. During the last class he spent the whole time talking about lab notebook protocol and intellectual property rights for patents. Nothing I can possibly foresee doing with my field notebook will ever result in a patent. This is just one example of the fact that he has never acknowledged that there are some of us in science who don't work in a typical "lab" with "lab experiments" and "lab notebooks" and I think it's because he doesn't know because he has never once in the course asked what kind of science we do. My research has nothing to do with medicine or industry. I don't even know what other departments people in this class come from.

-If he knew his audience, it wouldn't take much modification of his lectures to pitch things to the field ecologists and the other unaddressed scientific disciplines in the room (if there are any).

I just feel like so many of the topics discussed in this class had absolutely nothing to do with my research (such as the ethics of dealing with human research subjects or lab rats), yet no one ever attempted to acknowledge this. It would not have taken much to include us in the conversation and convince me to care a little more about the ethics of lab notebook protocol. I am going to be sorely disappointed if I do not get to fill out an evaluation for this class.

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