Division of Professional Relations

A Technical Division of the American Chemical Society

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PROF Ethics Symposium at Pacifichem

Posted by acsprofessionalrelations on January 19, 2011 at 4:00 PM

by Dave Chesney

The Division of Professional Relations, in conjunction with the ACS Ethics Committee, sponsored a symposium at Pacifichem 2010 this past December 17th and 18th. Titled “Cultural Influences on Professional Ethics,” the co-organizers were Dave Chesney (former PROF Chair and current Ethics Committee Chair), Kieran Lim (Royal Australian Chemical Institute) and Peter Mahaffy (Canadian Society for Chemistry).  The symposium was envisioned as a way to engage the other Pacific Rim chemical societies in a dialog regarding the inherent obstacles encountered by professional chemists in transitioning from one national culture to another. The organizers posed the questions: “Are there cultural influences that affect professional attitudes and interactions?” and “Should the Pacific Rim chemical societies attempt to develop professionalism guidelines agreed on by all?” Judging from the interaction at the symposium, the answer to both questions is yes.

Talks at the symposium involved a wide range of issues:

• Three members of CHAL (Justin Hasford, Gary Ma, and Sarah Hasford) discussed ethical issues that could potentially arise in connection with enforcement of U.S. patent rights, particularly in cases involving parties from other Pacific Basin nations.

• Keith Vitense (Chair, PROF Subdivision on Ethics, Member ACS Ethics Committee) talked about cultural influences in the realm of professional sports.

• Ling Ye (Hospira, Inc.) related observations of the differences between Chinese and American students with respect to independence, problem solving, and project handling. Her talk was the only one in the symposium that addressed cultural differences from a personal perspective and was very well received by the audience.

• George Bodner (ACS Ethics Committee) gave two talks. The first on identifying plagiarism led to a vigorous audience discussion. George’s second talk focused on research misconduct in the context of submitting papers for publication, how common it is, and what steps publishers are taking to combat it.

• Sue Schelble (PROF Secretary, ACS Ethics Committee) gave an overview of how the Ethics Committee was using the response clickers purchased by PROF with the help of a previous IPF grant. She followed with a demonstration of several of the case studies that her subcommittee is tasked with developing.

• Kieran Lim (School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Australia) was one of the symposiumorganizersandtalkedabouthisobservationsof attitudestowardprofessionalethicsinAustralianstudents.

• Mike Bowler (Dept of Humanities, MTU) presented a strong case for the implementation of empirical methods and instruments to determine the efficacy of educational attempts at professional ethics education and awareness. He emphasized that ethics education must deal directly with the national and cultural differences inherent in an increasingly diverse population of STEM faculty, postdoctoral researchers and students, and that empirical approaches are not only becoming increasingly necessary, but must be capable of handling these differences.

• Susan Amato-Henderson (Dept of Cognitive and Learning Sciences, MTU) presented the results of a survey that she and Mike Bowler had developed and distributed to every faculty member in the ACS Directory of Graduate Research. This survey was designed to determine their perceptions of the preparedness of graduate students as it relates to research integrity and research misconduct, as well as their opinions about the causes of and the best methods for rectifying any deficiencies in this regard. A strong response was obtained, attesting to the interest in this subject. The survey indicated that 95% of U.S. faculty support an effort to develop international guidelines for professionalism in chemistry.

To our knowledge, this is the first time the issue of how culture impacts professionalism has been formally addressed in the physical sciences. We anticipated that this symposium would initiate a collaborative effort among Pacific Rim chemical societies to develop a universal set of professional ethics guidelines. Despite the approval from faculty in the U.S., it is now apparent that we will have to make a concerted effort to reach out to the other chemical societies, perhaps at the Presidential level, if we are to pursue this issue.

The feedback from the symposium has engendered considerable enthusiasm among the Ethics Committee members involved to apply for NSF funding to support education in the chemical sciences. Our emphasis would be to develop video case studies that would be filmed in different languages and used to evaluate the responses of differing cultures to the same scenario.

Categories: Newletter Articles, Ethics

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