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Department of Information Technology

Abstracts N-Ö

Kristian Nygren, Chemistry,

Only human
We are taught what is right and what is wrong already from the early footsteps of our human lives. Although the linguistic approach suggests choices that are Boolean in nature, this is rarely the case. As scientists we often call ourselves observers of the world and the universe we live in. As observers, we apply a reference frame from which we measure space, objects, events, and also time. If you go outside and look at the moon or the sun, they both appear circular and flat. Given this and only this reference frame, wouldn´t the description match the objects? We now "know" that a spherical approximation describes them more accurately.
Science is highly valued as it is considered to improve human well-being and development. It leads to new discoveries and technologies, which bring us more "experimental freedom". From the 17th century, we needed oil for industrial and human needs, such as lightning (oil lamps), lubrication, and soap. This oil was obtained by killing whales. Today whaling is more or less banned, but was it a moral decision at the time to kill whales for our human needs? In this case, the reference frame is not a mathematical one, but one of culture, religion, tradition, and standard of living.
Abstractness makes it difficult for us to make decisions. For example, most of us seem to have accepted freedom by surveillance (technologies). You do not see or feel digital monitoring. However, imagine having a coffee with your friend and that your conversation is recorded by microphones put right next to your mouth. Rest assured - the record would be stored safely in an abstract cloud data center, run by an abstract government organization, in turn defined by possession of plastic cards with abstract digital authentication information. In the name of defense security (who´s the aggressor?), we go on with our lives knowing what we do feels wrong, but still somehow justified. Most children will tell you that eavesdropping is bad.
Given this human perspective, let´s now return to being a scientist. Definitions and guidelines are set forth by ever changing, and mostly expanding, community standards. According to the International Council for Science (ICSU), scientists should be honest, impartial, and fair, report results in an accurate, timely, and open manner, and also be respectful and considerate. I cannot help but to think of the science fiction series Star Trek, where the Vulcans possess optimal logical thinking and no feelings whatsoever. Is this humanly possible? Given the many circumstances of life, this is not the case. Consider this ultimatum: Immediately publish articles or get fired. You know your data is not completely accurate, but you can get it published. If you get fired, you don´t earn any money, and then you cannot (legally) obtain food and shelter for you and your family. The individual scientist should of course "place societal benefits before the pursuit of personal profit" [ICSU]. Would you risk your own personal social security - in essence this is obtained by monetary profit - in place of the greater common good? Moreover, would you be able to continue your research, and if not, how does that fit with the greater good?
We should tell the truth about our research. The problem is the truth is so extensively bound to its references. Therefore, we typically choose to accept an abstract of 200 words or so.

Flore Remouit, Engineering Sciences,

Peer-Reviewing and publication
From the following articles:
- Who's Afraid of Peer Review?
- Göran Hermerén et Al., Good Research Practice, p35-39. 2011
- B-A. Nosek, J-R. Spies, M. Motyl. Scientific Utopia: II. Restructuring incentives and practices to promote truth over publishability, May 25. 2012
Publishing papers is essential for the research community, in order to go forward in each field of research. Peer-review is here to control the relevance of the articles submitted. The review is supposed to be done ethically, with the appropriate reviewers for each paper, in an anonymous and secured process. However, some failures appear inevitably when it comes to realty.
The first ethical issues are caused by the fact that we are human, and so are the reviewers. They cannot avoid having feelings by reading the article, which affect their point of view. The reviewer can guess the author of the paper, even if it is supposed to be anonymous. He or she can read some results which affect his or her own research, either because the paper yields results the reviewer was looking for, or because it criticizes the results the reviewer has already published.
The second ethical question about peer-reviewing comes from the work done for an article-review. How much time should I spend on one article? How far is the subject of the paper from my research topic? (Am I able to judge this article?). How do I judge if the paper is good or not, relevant, interesting for further studies? And also for the next step, how much should we trust the reviewers? What if they spent five minutes on the article or if they gave it to review by their PhD students instead of them?
To make this peer-review process as properly as possible, we need to understand what its purpose is. One could think the goal is to bring new ideas to a specific research field. And to go further, it could be not only that but also challenging the other researchers in that field, asking new questions. In that case, papers relating fails, wrong experiments, unexpected results, should be published, which is actually not really the case.
What is a finding, and what is publishable? Is a finding always positive? Is a finding always able to be published? What if this finding is useless and doesn´t help the scientific community to go forward? And how to know if this finding will be always useless, or on the contrary always useful? What is mainly important in the peer-review process is the dynamicity, always adapt the process, the choice of the reviewers, and reconsider each time the problem. Ethics questions are always to be renewed. They change with time and needs to evolve with society, science, and humanity. That´s why we need to ask ourselves how we can change the process so it becomes better, for example with this website where everyone can put its article, but a commission also gives its opinion so people are informed of what could be relevant and what not, according to these reviewers.

Victor Shcherbakov, Information Technology,


Each individual has his/her own concept of ethics. It is not something stated for the whole society, it is not a law everyone must follow to. It may differ in different cultures and counties. But in Academia we try to develop a uniform set of ethical and moral rules such as CODEX. It is quite clear that there is a strong correlation between the level of education of a man and his/her height of moral principles. That is, we can conclude that Academia is a high moral environment. However even in this environment some cases may occur. Especially nowadays Academia becomes more and more multi international, i.e. researchers from different cultural background can bring their own understanding of the moral and ethics and follow their own set of ethical rules. One can do something what he or she can think is acceptable, because in his/her country it is a normal practice, but someone else can totally reject this and say that it is absolutely immoral, because in his/her country it is illegal or fundamentally immoral.
Animal testing is one of the most critical points. Of course people have to use animals to test medicines, new methods of treatment and so on. But what is the number of animals, which should be used in a test? How carefully should the researcher use animals? Should the researcher use painkillers or not? And what kind of animals fits the best to perform experiments on? If we talk about experiments, which are going to be applied to humans, then chimpanzee is the best choice, because chimpanzee´s DNA is 96% identical to human´s, and this being is humanlike, i.e. generally speaking, it is almost the same as to carry out an experiment on a human individual. That is why in a few countries experiments on apes are forbidden, and experiments on volunteers are considered to be more moral. But even if experiments on apes are illegal in someone´s country, this someone can go to another country where it is allowed. And this is exactly the place where an ethical question arises. How should one act in this situation? On the one hand maybe one is at the very finish to find the panacea and he or she needs to do an experiment on a chimpanzee, but his/her country forbids using apes in medical experiments. How much morally is going to another country to set up the experiment there? To avoid such questions scientists trying to develop a set of rules, which will cover all such ethical questions. And since Academia is an international environment, everyone should accept and follow these norms, even if the legal regulation of someone´s country allows doing experiments contradicting to these norms.

Pavle Subotic, Information Technology,


Thanh Truong, Information Technology,

Ethics in Observational Research Involving Humans
Since the day one, technology has become a driving force of the whole society. In the efforts of questing for innovation, researchers all around the world conduct experiments that require human participations.

As human involves, ethic exists. Through history, there were some unintended famous experiments, which raised concerns about ethics. For example, in 1939 - 1945, in Nazi experiments, people had been deathly abused to test new kinds of medications [1]. Another example, in 1993, US researchers publicly exposed identities of U.S human radiation experiments. The benefits of such researches are undeniable as it was conducted to have better understanding of medications or to find new breakthroughs for science. However, under the hood, participants in Nazi experiments were treated badly resulting in a number of deaths reported. In the second example, participants names were revealed causing breach of privacy.
Therefore, several milestones in Ethical Development dedicated for Research Involving Human have been introduced.
o 1997 Pharmaceutical industry was required to develop guidance on the inclusion of women and minorities in trials by Food and Drug Modernization Act (FDAMA) [2]
o 2000 Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) was introduced [4].

As suggest by Good Research Practice, researchers need to get approval from Regional Ethical Reviews Board beforehand. They will be reviewed when the research project uses any kinds of methods that carries an obvious risk physically or psychologically to the research participants. They also will be reviewed if the project collects and processes personal data information. The research results shall be published but the personal data should retain anonymous.

On other hands, participants should have acknowledged about some aspects of the research such as: benefits, risks, data collection process, usages of personal data. There is a very fine line between benefit and risk from participant´s perspective. A research could be very beneficial to research community or to society but it could cause research subjects to be exposed to the risks such as HIV syndrome infection. Even though, research subjects are normally voluntary but sometimes, they are in because of misleading or naïve-ness. Likely, one cannot prevent such cases happen. However, written consent forms should be arranged from researchers to clear the cloud between them and their volunteers. In addition, children and infant only participate when the agreement from their guardians can be obtained.

Nevertheless, I do agree that all parties involving in the experimental research need to be aware of some code books such as Personal Data Act [3], be respect the human rights, the regional regulations, and common sense. However, they only help to make things better but not completely wash away existence of ethical issues. Those regulations, codebooks, articles and laws will be eventually revised and modified in order to make it more realistic and more invincible towards the problems.

1. United State Holocaust Memorial Museum
2. Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act (FDAMA) of 1997
3. The Personal Data Act
4. Office of Human Research Protections - Home Policy & Guidance Informed Consent

Ambuj Varshney, Information Technology,

Observational research and the smartphones.

Observational research involves observing person of interest and variables associated with them. This might involve different tools like video recording, human observations, surveys or more modern form of digital traces inform of location, proximity and other possible sensors. The purpose is to collect useful scientific data.

This form of research opens a number of important ethical issues. It is essential to answer questions like a) How do you collect data ? does the act of collecting data alter the quality of the collected scientific data in anyway ? b) What kind of approvals are needed to conduct the research ? c) How do you share scientific data without compromising the privacy ? . These are among some of the important ethical issues that needs to be answered before the research is conducted.

We live in an increasingly connected world. In this connected world, we are increasingly being surrounded by sensors, tracking each and every movement and part of our life. Tools like smartphones equipped with different sensors are acting as data collection devices. These offer data at a very fine resolution aiding in observational research. These bring forward a number of ethical challenges in collecting and using data for observational research using smartphones.

ESOMAR in a document titled "Key Requirements for Mobile Research" highlights number of important points to be kept in mind for doing observational research with mobile phones[1]. The key among these are, to be open and transparent with people participating in research, the personal information that can identify people is kept safe, to ensure the participants are a

Afshin Zafari, Information Technology,

Ethics, Morals and Laws

Why we talk about research ethics and not morals nor laws? Morals cannot be a good metric for assessing a research for its ethics quality. People may have sets of morals without being aware of them, or being able to justify themselves for them or even carrying morals with inconsistent values or positions. However, for quality research we want to justify our position and need to a systematic well formulated ,consistent and precise set of norms that are used consciously.

However, defining the research ethics is not straightforward and cannot be simply summarized, particularly when new areas and methods for research appear time by time. So in many contexts, research ethics is limited to professional ethics that is the responsibility of the researcher towards research and research community. There have been attempts to formulate such a professional ethics, like Merton´s CUDOS principles, that have been questioned and evolved during time but have been used as starting point for further discussions about a good research practice. The problem with these kind of principles or norms is that they cannot be used in real situations where real needs of the researcher may expand or even conflict with these norms, for example research in industrial environments may never be acknowledged to society or other researchers. Therefore, we need to a set of ethical rules to construct a code for research through which researchers try to find what morals are demanded for their research.

On the other hand, laws are not sufficient for evaluating the research ethics although they are necessary to obey. Laws are established in special procedures, may have different purposes and different punishments when they are broken, and may have also limitation on validity in terms of time (when abolished) or space (from country to country). For example, Swedish Research Council has more explicitly restricting requirements for commercial ties than the Ethical Review of Research Involving Humans. Laws may even be weaker than morals, for example, in situations in our life that law is silent or ignorant while morals has explicit forbids or prescriptions.

It is crucial to the researcher that what laws are applicable to his/her research and how they can be distinguished from morals. A researcher should always know what law requires for his/her specific research and more importantly, "The fact that the project does not fall under the law´s description it does not provide an exemption from this" [p21,Good Research Practice]. To solve problems happen for such a project/research, for example, it is often required by international journals that the research receives an advisory statement from an ethics review board.

It should also be noticed by researchers that the ethical quality of a research has no conflict with its scientific quality rather it is a part of it and is evaluated together with it. Research´s failure in satisfying a single measure of quality, including ethics items, results in disqualifying it as a scientific one. The researchers must be aware of situations, like economic and time frames, which tempt them using shortcuts that consequently cause fail in both ethical and scientific quality.

Aleksandar Zeljic, Information Technology,

Importance of Ethics in Science

Ethics is an important topic in the scientific world. While the morals of science are relatively straightforward, the reality under which scientific research is performed is an abundant source of ethical issues.

On one hand, science is a huge collaboration between individual people whose interest is to increase the overall knowledge of humankind and make lasting contributions for its future. A scientist wants to produce quality reasearch which should provide new knolwedge about a topic. In order for this knowledge to be of value it needs to be novel and the results reproducible. Scientific knowledge usually relies on work of others, so in order to be able to track which ideas belong to the author and which belong to other scientists a citation system was introduced. It allows to track the ideas and contributions to the original authors. Ideally goal of the researchers is to produce quality novel research while acknowledging the contribution of already published results. It goes without saying that scientists should report the results in their entirety without omission or obfuscation.

However, scientific research is funded by the society and as such there is need for visible results in order to justify the funds that were invested. On the other hand, visible results are measured by number of publications made which encourages scientists to "publish-or-perish". This further encourages sloppy research, mass production of papers, dividing a result into multiple pieces in order to squeeze more publications out of it. It also encourages dishonesty in form of idea theft, (self-)plagiarism, obfuscated results, etc. The scientists might be tempted at every step to "cut the corners" since no one is watching. The temptation depends on the individual, but the choice to stick to the morals of science against personal gain or survival is ever present and has to be made anew each time.

Another aspect is that scientific research need to be performed in such a way that it respects everyones rights, without endangering anyone or anything, whether it is a human, an animal or the environment. This can conflict with the personal goals of a scientist who might desperately need a publication to keep his or her job, or who needs to perform the research and publish the result due to other reasons, despite significant consequences that might be at stake. Another situation is should one keep ideas or knowledge to himself if he can predict that they might be used in ways that might be questionable?

Scientists often face various ethical choices and it is critical that they are able to take into account all the aspects of the situation and make a correct decision, because it is rarely that they are the only ones affected by their choice. The situations range from important decisions on which the outcome of a project may depend, performing unethical experiments vs. new cure for a vicious disease, reviewing a submission made by a rival or a friend, etc. It is clear that for scientists ability to handle such questions is mandatory, since so much can depend on only one wrong decision.

Minpeng Zhu, Information Technology,

We are facing a dynamic research ethics in different research fields. These new research ethics come from new technology, methods, new material to be analyzed. In order to protect the participants and research objects involved in the research. Written consent is a common way that recognized as participant protection. There are some common important items declared in written consent, for example, 1)The way to protect personal sensitive data, 2)The participant needs to know about the usage scope of the material, e.g. is it limited to use in research or possible in teaching as well, 3)The participant should not be able to be identified at all, 4) whether or not the material will be destroyed if the participant withdraws consent.

There are common research ethic issues concerned in today’s research.
• Data concerning sexual preference represents information that many people would want to keep private.
• Other information may be less sensitive, such as one’s favorite color.
• The participants should be assured that the data will be held in strict confidence to protect anonymity

“Invasion of privacy represents a substantial risk in qualitative research because of
the sensitive data often collected and analyzed” (Baez, 2002; Nagy, 2005b). Let the participant being anonymous is a traditional way to protect individual participant.

• Physical and psychological abuse on participants.

There can be risks in observational study. E.g. physical harm and Psychological harm. First, participants may be harmed as a result of their involvement. The potential harms include death or injury, stress, guilt, reduction in self-respect or self-esteem, unfair treatment, withheld benefits, and minor discomfort.

-Underage participant:
• If a child is under 15 years old, both guardians as well as the child must consent to participate.

• The information about the study should be written so that the child can understand it.

Furthermore, the widely use of internet produces ethic issue of downloading unauthorized files from internet at school. Students can for example download course slides, assignment from school website through internet. However, students may not only download authorized files from school and they might go to some movie, music websites to download some movie, music files that they are not permitted to download. The thing makes even worse is that they use school internet connection to do so. One of the consequences is that the school network began to slow gradually cause of more and more students download music file or even big movie file. Network administrator in this case might need to add more bandwidth. In an even worse situation, the school will be alerted by companies who felt their rights had been violated. For example, Warner Brothers contacted one college to inform them that one of their students had illegally downloaded a copy of a new Clint Eastwood movie.

Network policy maker needs to protect school from downloading unauthorized files by student. At the same time, student has its right to access internet, including downloading authorized files, such as software provided from school, course material from school website. Therefore, all legal activities of using internet should be allowed and illegal activities should be listed and indicated clearly. I think school has the responsibility for making the network policy very carefully in order to prevent downloading unauthorized files by students. Meanwhile, students as internet user from school have the obligation to follow the network policy.

Johannes Åman Pohjola, Information Technology,

A recurring theme in much of the literature for this seminar is conflicts between on the one hand the ideals of science, and on the other hand the behaviour incentivised by structures and norms in science and the surrounding world. We illustrate this point by contrasting the behaviour demonstrated in examples from this reference literature with Merlon's CUDOS norms; in doing so, our intention is not to treat CUDOS as a set of moral axioms, but rather as a lens through which we can interpret the ethical conflicts inherent in the examples under consideration.

The case of Crown Princess Victoria, whose bachelor's thesis is not made available to the community, clearly violates the principle of communalism (the C in CUDOS), and arguably also the principle of universalism (the U). The expectation that Swedish royalty should be apolitical appears to have taken precedence over concerns about research ethics, which begs the question of why the following stance was not taken: "if royalty cannot express views on a subject, their thesis must be on another subject". I strongly suspect that the answer is weaker economic incentives for the latter: while it may not be optimal from a research ethics perspective, the publicity and prestige of having the crown princess associated with your university's name was simply too valuable to pass up.

Nosek et al. have written a position paper that discusses the conflict between the principles of disinterest (D from CUDOS) and organised scepticism (OS from CUDOS) on the one hand, and the strong pressure to "publish or perish" faced by scientists trying to make a living in academia. This is not an issue to be taken lightly, as illustrated by The Economist's article on the alarmingly high rates of irreproducibility occuring among seminal papers in psychology and the biomedical sciences. Nosek et al. argues that such problems are due to strong incentives to publish novel and surprising results, but lower incentives to replicate accepted studies, rigorously ensure correctness of published results, or conversely to abstain from publishing results one is not confident about.

Eriksson and Lacerda have written a strongly worded study on charlatanry in forensic science, showing that lie detectors do not in fact detect lies. The widespread use of lie detectors despite this fact can be seen as a double failure: the failure of research ethics to trump incentives to make a quick buck in forensic science, and the failure of scientific results concerning the shortcomings of lie detectors to be satisfactorily disseminated among the wider public. Whether the latter failure is a problem owned by the researchers in question, and thus clearly within the scope of this course, is not clear to the present author.

Ethics, Morals and Laws
Updated  2013-12-02 22:04:47 by Minpeng Zhu.