The VUB Ethics Casebook is the first of its kind in Belgium and consists of two parts: a textbook and a guidebook. The textbook paints a research dilemma and provides four possible ways to respond to it. The guidebook then provides the solution and explains the specific problems of the theme, the legislation and additional questions and suggestions for discussion possibilities.
John Pearson, ethics and research integrity advisor at VUB’s Legal & Ethics Office, which developed the casebook, explains: “The dilemmas in the Ethics Casebook are concrete issues that researchers regularly encounter. For example, the case in which an investigator witnesses a murder during an anthropological investigation in a dangerous neighbourhood. Should one report this and thus risk the investigation – the trust that he has built up? Or if an engineer develops a drone for humanitarian purposes and notices that security services are also interested in her work. The Ethics Casebooks are currently being distributed among VUB professors and will be used in lectures in the coming week and beyond.”
Food for thought
Students and scientists will also literally have ethics on their plate in the coming week, as Ethics Week includes a restaurant campaign. Every day, VUB’s student restaurant is serving an ‘ethically charged’ meal with ingredients that pose an ethical problem – for example, the way in which they end up on our plates. Today, cod was on the menu, raising the question of the extent to which fishing is ethical.
Finally, throughout the week there will be eight discussion sessions on a variety of topics, such as publication pressure, bias in the drafting of research questions or ethical issues relating to artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation. On Tuesday evening there will also be a science bar in the centre of Brussels on that theme: can science create a ‘golden banana’ that is resistant to all diseases in order to prevent food shortages?
For more information about the programme, see www.vub.be/weekvandeethiek/#programme-ethics-week-2019