Philosophy & Ethics

As a scientist, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Or into your own arm, and occasionally, your own heart. Autoexperimentation is the very risky practice of wildcat science. If you can’t find an animal model for a virus, inoculate yourself. If you can’t find a volunteer, step up. Several autoexperimenting scientists have won the Nobel Prize. Nobel Hearts Werner Forssmann won the Nobel in 1956 for performing the first cardiac catheterization.

You may have seen it last week. There were charges of fraud levelled at the Obama campaign because donations from names like 'Doodad Pro' were not reported by his campaign. In the last election, there were claims that Republicans invoked anti-fraud measures to suppress legitimate voting by groups that tend to vote Democratic.

In both cases, there was more hyperbole than substance. There is fraud, but the immediacy of the internet has magnified it into being much more substantial than it is and University at Buffalo Law School Professor James A. Gardner cautions against giving too much importance to charges of voter fraud in American elections and supposed incompetence in administering elections. The process in the overwhelming majority of elections, he says, is working well.



Oct 06 2008 | 1 comment(s)

Nachrichten aus Großbritannien

Government spies could scan every call, text and email

Ministers are considering a £12 billion plan to monitor the e-mail, telephone and internet browsing records of every person in Britain. This is the heading of an article in today's Daily Telegraph. Two questions: Would it work? (Especially with our government's record of sloppy data handling) How would one escape over the Firewall?

White people, even children as young as 10, avoid talking about race because any opinion may appear prejudiced, according to new research, but that approach often backfires as blacks tend to view that approach as evidence of prejudice, especially when race is clearly relevant.

These results are from two separate sets of experiments led by researchers from Tufts University and Harvard Business School. Their findings are reported in the October issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology(1) and the September issue of Developmental Psychology(2).

“Efforts to talk about race are fraught with the potential for misunderstandings,” said the studies’ lead author, Evan Apfelbaum, a PhD candidate at Tufts University. “One way that whites try to appear unbiased is to avoid talking about race altogether, a tendency we refer to as strategic colorblindness.”

Obviously in the instance of a severe pandemic influenza outbreak, doctors, nurses, and firefighters are essential but so are truck drivers, communications personnel, and utility workers, according to the conclusions of a Johns Hopkins University article in Biosecurity and Bioterrorism.

The report, led by Nancy Kass, Sc.D, Deputy Director of Public Health for the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, provides ethical guidance for pandemic planning that ensures a skeletal infrastructure remain intact at all times. Dr. Kass says, "when preparing for a severe pandemic flu it is crucial for leaders to recognize that if the public has limited or no access to food, water, sewage systems, fuel and communications, the secondary consequences may cause greater sickness death and social breakdown than the virus itself."

Congressional appropriations are largely stalled, with the exception of defense spending:
Congress has made little progress on the federal government’s budget for fiscal year (FY) 2009, which begins October 1, leaving federal funding for research and development (R&D) in limbo... The federal investment in basic and applied research totals $58.2 billion at the start of FY 2009, a small $244 million or 0.4 percent increase due to large research increases in the finalized DOD [Dept. of Defense], DHS [Dept. of Homeland Security], and VA {Veterans Administration] budgets offset by cuts in research funding for agencies such as NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIH that received supplemental 2008 appropriations in June but lose those funds in the CR. After adjusting for inflation, the federal investment in research could decline for the fifth year in a row in 2009.
It's all going to defense R&D:
Eli Lilly and Merck are going to start reporting payments made to physicians. How would you feel if you found out that your physician, who just prescribed you (or your child)that expensive new drug, has been receiving payments from the drug's manufacturer? Or that your physician has just attended a lavish "educational" conference at Lake Tahoe, sponsored by the drug's maker, and devoted largely to pushing the benefits of the drug?

Genetic studies involving the long term storage and study of human samples hold great promise for medical research—but they also pose new threats to individuals such as uninsurability, unemployability, and discrimination, say Matthias Wjst (Institute of Genetic Medicine, Bozen, Italy) and colleagues.

They argue that the traditional informed consent process—in which the researcher counsels potential study participants about the risks and benefits of taking part in a study—may no longer be appropriate when dealing with long-term studies using biological materials.

More than 1,500 audiocassette tapes taken in 2001 from Osama bin Laden's former residential compound in Qandahar, Afghanistan, are yielding new insights into the radical Islamic militant leader's intellectual development in the years leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Flagg Miller, an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of California, Davis, and the first academic researcher to study the tapes, will present his preliminary observations in a lecture at the Center of Modern Oriental Studies in Berlin on Sept. 18. The first research paper stemming from Miller's study of the tapes will appear in the October issue of the journal Language & Communication.