...And if that is truly the case, what role can the ACS Committee on Ethics play as we go forward?
The first and most obvious role is in providing more opportunities for education on ethics. The ethics committee was formed in 2006. That year, it held its first symposium on ethics at the Southeastern Regional Meeting of ACS (SERMACS) in Augusta, Ga. That ethics symposium has evolved into half-day ethics workshops that are now held at both national and regional meetings.
The committee continues to survey the landscape to cosponsor and/or develop symposia that reflect current “hot topics” in ethics. Symposia topics in the pipeline include publishing and authorship, patents and discovery, and nanotechnology. We welcome your input to help identify topics. We are also able to provide help in the form of subject matter experts where appropriate.
The committee is working on a publication on ethics for undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The goal of the publication is to increase the awareness of the importance of ethics as part of the practice of chemistry. The publication, which we hope to make available in both print and online, will be modeled after the Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Academic Institutions that was developed by the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety Task Force for Safety Education Guidelines but will have a focus on ethics rather than on safety....
...The very nature of ethics is personal. Ultimately, we can only control our own actions. The Committee on Ethics does not adjudicate; we facilitate. We don’t judge; we educate. Our goal is to provide you with the information needed to help you make the ethical choice.
You can contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Eric Slater, our staff liaison (email@example.com) with information pertaining to anything that you believe the committee should actively promote.I'm not much of a philosopher, but it seems to me that chemists at all levels are challenged with various ethical questions. A few that I can think of:
- What are the most ethical approaches to dealing with letters of recommendation? How much promoting should one do for the people that you're writing letters for?
- What are the ethical obligations to one's customers? If you had to rework their material to get it in-specification, are you obligated to tell your customer?
- What are ethical obligations to one's employers? If you're thinking about leaving for another employer, how much warning should you give them? Do those extend to the organization, or just your supervisor?