By Karla Zadnik, OD, PhD
College of Optometry
The Summer Institute’s research ethics course chugged along today. I started late, mostly because I didn’t realize most of my students were in the courtyard just outside the classroom in the bright morning sunshine, waiting for me to begin speaking. I lectured on the tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki (OSU faculty—you all remember those, right?) and the ethical use of animals in research (thanks Donna McCarthy!), but the highlight turned out to be the case study discussions.
I presented a case I’d heard at the 2008 Public Responsibility in Medicine & Research meeting. It weaves the tale of an imaginary city, Blovar, which is under siege such that its children are subsisting on an inadequate 400 calories. An entrepreneurial, mythical scientist who studies nutrition and brain function in children appears on the scene to conduct a purely observational study of the children. After carefully reading the case, the course attendees “went to town.” After their small group analysis of the case, I facilitated a discussion of the case. They didn’t need me. There were marked differences of opinion in the class. One attendee drew historical correlates, while another took the role of the Principal Investigator, cautioning the audience to assume that fellow scientists generally want to do a good job. The points made were lively, vehement even, yet collegial. All this before lunch!
The afternoon’s soundtrack was a thunderstorm of biblical proportions that hammered the roof of the classroom and lit up the sky. We all raised our voices in tune with the rain and created a chorus, celebrating the hard, thoughtful work of teaching and learning research-related ethics.