COMP 601/CAAM 601: Research Ethics Seminar

Compiled by Moshe Y. Vardi


Misconduct in science affects us all. It undermines public trust in the results and methods of science and threatens public funding and support for scientific research. This case-based course will focus on incidents and issues commonly encountered in the preparation, conduct, and reporting of scientific research. Topics covered include professional issues such as peer review, conducting research, authorship, research fraud, and conflicts of interest. Bioethics issues will not be covered in this course.

The purpose of this course is to engage current (and potential) research trainees in discussions about proper and improper scientific conduct. Each meeting will focuses on at least one key case illustrating one or more of these issues. In keeping with the complex, and often personal dimensions of these issues, emphasis is on interactive discussion. The case facilitator serves as a discussion leader, but the value of each session depends on each participants prior preparation and in-class involvement.

Basic Information

Course Newsgroup: Rice.owlnews.comp601
Time and Location: Fridays, 3:00-4:30pm, DH 1075
  • John E. Dennis (
  • Moshe Y. Vardi (

  • Required Reading:
  • Djerassi: Cantor's Dilemma
  • On Being a Scientist
  • Honor in Science

  • Recommended Reading:
  • Feibelman: A Ph.D. Is Not Enough
  • Medawar: Advice to a Young Scientist
  • Optional Reading:
  • Bell: Impure Science
  • Broad and Wade: Betrayers of the Truth
  • Dewdney: Yes, We Have No Neutrons
  • Kohn: False Prophets
  • Huizenga: Cold Fusion
  • Close: Too Hot to Handle
  • Tabues: Bad Science

  • Syllabus
  • Week 1: Organizational meeting
  • Week 2: Video - "Do Scientists Cheat?"
  • Week 3: Case scenario - "The Selection of Data"
  • Week 4: Case scenario - Whose Data Are They, Anyway?
  • Week 5: Case scenarios - "Conflict of Interests"
  • Week 6: Case scenarios - A Grant Reviewer's Quandary
  • Week 7: Case scenario - "Who Should be an Author?"
  • Week 8: Case scenarios - A Suggestion of Fraud
  • Week 9: Case scenarios -
    The Case of Pamela A. Berge - Part I
    The Case of Pamela A. Berge - Part II
    Who Is the Culprit?
  • Week 10: Guest lecture - Gerald McKenny, "Moral Reasoning"
  • Week 11: Case scenario - Cantor's Dilemma
  • Week 12: Should there be limits on scientific inquiry - Chapter VI in Forbidden Knowledge by R. Shattuck

  • In 1997: The seminar is offered in the fall semester. During the fall semester, this page is actively updated with announcements, handouts, and related information. During the spring semester, this page is dormant.