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Science, Medicine & Research

In the natural and social sciences, engineering, and medicine, professionals face an ethical responsibility to their subjects and patients and an obligation report data accurately.


Researchers and practitioners in the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, and medicine face an ethical responsibility to their research subjects, clients, and patients. Researchers in these fields also have a duty to ethically and accurately report complex information and share data responsibly.

Professional Codes of Conduct often exist in these fields to support scientists, researchers, and health care providers in determining the right thing to do and how to do it. But often, professionals in these fields must make ethical judgments that fall outside of such guidelines.

These resources explore behavioral ethics and applied ethics concepts related to scientific and medical research and the practice of health care. In addition, a broader array of topics that can impact ethical decision-making in research are included, along with some of the ethical dilemmas that are present in scientific research, medical practice, social work, and business enterprises adjacent to these fields.

Start Here: Videos

Causing Harm

Causing Harm

Causing harm explores the types of harm that may be caused to people or groups and the potential reasons we may have for justifying these harms.


Self-serving Bias

Self-serving Bias

The self-serving bias causes us to see things in ways that support our best interests and our pre-existing points of view.


Start Here: Cases

Birthing Vaccine Skepticism

Birthing Vaccine Skepticism

Wakefield published an article riddled with inaccuracies and conflicts of interest that created significant vaccine hesitancy regarding the MMR vaccine.


Teaching Notes

Begin by viewing the “Start Here” videos for an introduction to ethics concepts most applicable to working in the sciences and health care fields, such as the self-serving bias, harm, and financial conflicts of interest in research. Read through these videos’ teaching notes for details and related ethics concepts. Watch the “Related Videos” and/or read the related Case Study. “Additional Resources” offer further reading, a bibliography, and (sometimes) assignment suggestions.

Watch the “Additional Videos” to learn about the behavioral ethics biases, such as the slippery slope and loss aversion, that can influence research design and impact data reporting. Other videos explain the biases and pressures, such as confirmation bias and framing, that challenge professionals in every field and are especially problematic in scientific research, medicine, and engineering.

Show a video in class, assign a video to watch outside of class, or embed a video in an online learning module such as Canvas. Then, prompt conversation in class to encourage peer-to-peer learning. Ask students to answer the video’s “Discussion Questions,” and to reflect on the ideas and issues raised by the students in the video. How do their experiences align? How do they differ? The videos also make good writing prompts. Ask students to watch a video and apply the ethics concept to course content.

Case studies are an effective way to introduce ethics topics, too, and for students to learn how to spot ethical issues. Read the recommended case studies for real-world examples of both practice-related and research-related ethical dilemmas in science and medicine. Ask students to answer the case study “Discussion Questions.” Then, ask students to reason through the ethical dimensions presented, and to sketch the ethical decision-making process outlined by the case. Then, challenge students to develop strategies to avoid these ethical pitfalls. Suggest students watch the case study’s “Related Videos” and “Related Terms” to further their understanding.

Ethics Unwrapped blogs are also useful prompts to engage students. Learning about ethics in the context of real-world (often current) events can enliven classroom discussion and make ethics relevant and concrete for students. Share a blog in class or post one to the class’s online learning module. To spur discussion, ask students to identify the ethical issues at hand and to name the ethics concepts related to the blog (or current event in the news). Dig more deeply into the topic using the Additional Resources listed at the end of the blog post.

Remember to review video, case study, and blogs’ relevant glossary terms. In this way, you will become familiar with all the ethics concepts contained in these material. Share this vocabulary with your students, and use it to expand and enrich ethics and leadership conversations in your classroom. To dive deeper in the glossary, watch “Related” glossary videos.

Many of the concepts covered in Ethics Unwrapped operate in tandem with each other. As you watch more videos, you will become more fluent in ethics and see the interrelatedness of ethics concepts more readily. You also will be able to spot ethical issues more easily – at least, that is the hope! As your students watch more videos, it will be easier for them to recognize and understand ethical issues, and to express their ideas and thoughts about what is and isn’t ethical and why. Hopefully, they will also come to realize the interconnectedness of ethics and research, and the essential role ethics plays in developing solid leadership skills that support scientific research and best practices in medicine, engineering, and related fields.

Additional Videos

Additional Cases