The Photoshop alterations in the Syrian Conflict photo emphasize how ethics can be a slippery slope. I find it hard to believe that a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist was fired for such a seemingly harmless alteration. However, if the news agency allowed this minor offense to slide, they would have set a precedent for future journalists to make the same, if not worse, alterations which could misrepresent world events. This consequence would obviously be an ethical dilemma.
We recently discussed in our HNFE graduate seminar the potential consequences of falsifying data in research studies. In the field of dietetics, we are ethically responsible to use evidence-based nutrition guidelines in nutrition counseling. It’s cool (and scary at the same time) to think about how research studies can change the way health professionals care for their patients. In rare cases, the influences of research studies are not so positive.
For example, there was a study by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield that reported links between autism and a childhood vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella. This caused vaccination rates to drop drastically. However, it was later discovered that Wakefield altered the medical history of his participants; there was no link between autism and the vaccine. As such, Measles cases increased drastically in the following years. Full story here:
It’s mind-boggling to me how the falsification of data can negatively impact public health on such a large scale. It is our responsibility as researchers to follow not only our personal moral codes, but also our professional code of ethics, to ensure the safety of the public at large.
They say “if you’re not advancing, you’re retreating.” The university or higher education system is always facing challenges that aid in the transformation and advancement of how we as a society function. In the past, general, information transmitting courses offered during freshman and sophomore years seemed to be sufficient to jumpstart students’ passion and career goals. More recently, and from my experience as an undergraduate at VT, I found myself feeling stunted by these classes. I wished I had learned more. I wished I left with more real-life skills that would prepare me to hit the ground running when I entered my field. Luckily I was able to stay for graduate school which has greatly aided in development of “real-world” skills. Reflecting on my differing experiences in undergrad and grad school, I found it interesting and relevant that undergrad instruction is often viewed as peripheral to a faculty member’s interest (Origins reading). The description of this was on point with my experiences (2-3 large lectures/week with recitation sections led by grad students with little teaching experience). Having seen both worlds, I understand completely how hard it must be for these faculty members to juggle their responsibilities. What I’m trying to say is this: There has to be a better way to make this all work. The concept behind general classes makes sense but students have so many resources at their fingertips today with laptops, iPhones, iPads, etc. University systems and class courses have to keep up with the ever evolving technologies. The college freshman today looks nothing like the college freshman 20 years ago…or even 10 years ago. Maybe if professors could meet students where they are, students would be more interested in course content, and faculty members would find more reward and fulfillment in teaching them.
Filed under Ethics, vtclis12
My name is Erin. My roots are in PA but I have been a student at VT for almost six years. I graduated with a degree in HNFE, concentrating in dietetics. Currently, I’m pursuing my graduate degree in the same department, conducting research on artificial sweetener intake. With 4 months left in Blacksburg, I am excited to continue exploring my professional interests which include nutrition, health, mindfulness, and exercise.
I believe VT Principles of Community are all-inclusive and represent the spirit of VT. Principles are different from laws in that they cannot be enforced however they serve as great reminders to us all, even in times of hardship, to remain open-minded to those who are different from us. The university’s acknowledgement of previous exclusion indicates initiative/effort to move forward in a positive/inclusive way. It’s a great way to acknowledge previous pitfalls which says a lot about the university’s integrity. It could even be an effort to start a conversation about it, which usually allows people to feel more comfortable in speaking openly with each other. This brings me to the principle I find most fascinating:
We affirm the right of each person to express thoughts and opinions freely. We encourage open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect.
I think we live in a time where people are afraid to say how they feel. People fear they might hurt others’ feelings and say something that might not be “politically correct.” If we can learn to accept each other’s differences and perspectives and really make an effort to understand each other, we might end up getting along a lot better, despite our opposing views on things.