BIO 299
Scientific Integrity


Required Text: Macrina, Francis L., Scientific Integrity: An Introductory Text with Cases, 2nd Edition (yes, I named the course after the text)

Exploration of the scope and importance of ethics and integrity in the biological sciences.

Weekly short writing assignments (take-home), due on the first class meeting of the week at the beginning of the period:

  • Eight papers, each of equal weight; total = 70% of grade
  • In-class final (during finals week) - 30% of grade

See additional guidelines for explanation of grading criteria

Grading scale:
Letter grades on each assignment are expressed numerically, averaged as necessary, and adjusted to the percentages above.

A = 4.0, A- = 3.7, B+ = 3.3, B = 3.0, B- = 2.7, C+ = 2.3, C = 2.0, C- = 1.7, D+ = 1.3, D = 1.0, D- = 0.7, F = 0.0

BIO 115 or BIO 110

Additional Guidelines

Grading - The weekly take-home exams and the final will both consist of questions that present hypothetical situations involving ethical decisions. You will be asked to explain how you would act in each situation. Because ethics and integrity deal with personal choice, there is no one correct answer for each situation. Your answer will instead be graded by the following criteria:

  1. Understanding of the question. As always, it is important to answer that which was asked, and nothing more. I generally assign a grade based on the portion of the entire answer occupied by the correct answer, so it's not a good idea to write down everything you know in hopes that some of it will be right.
  2. Thoughtfulness of the answer. The whole purpose of the course is to encourage you to think about the subject, and your answers should show that you have been thinking. One way to show this is to explain why you answered as you did.
  3. Logical consistency, or acknowledgment that it is lacking. As scientists, we are trained to approach our subject in a logical manner, and logic is an important tool for any academic discipline. Human behavior, however, is often not logical. I expect you to try to be logical in your answers, but also to recognize and acknowledge it when you are not.
  4. Clarity. It is your job to help me understand what you are writing.

Confidentiality - Integrity in large measure involves personal values and personal choices. In the classroom, this often translates into the recounting of personal experiences. Although these experiences often enrich the class for everyone, I believe it is unethical to expect you to reveal personal information to the class if you choose not to. Because of this, I have established some ground rules:

  1. You are under no obligation at all to tell any of your personal experiences, even if they relate to the subject we are discussing. Telling a personal experience is a gift to the class.
  2. If you wish, you may disguise the fact that a situation happened to you (“A friend of mine was in a similar situation...”). Please don't give a name to the person you say it happened to (see number 3 below). Keep in mind that people may assume it was you, anyway.
  3. Avoid identifying other people involved in your experiences. By doing so, you are respecting their confidentiality as well.
  4. I will hold confidential any personal information that you reveal, with two exceptions: I am required by law to report any evidence of the sexual, physical, or emotional abuse of a minor, and I choose to report information that a crime resulting in physical injury to a person has been committed or will be committed.
  5. I expect each of you to hold confidential all personal information revealed in class, but I will not be responsible for breaches of confidentiality by students in the class.
  6. Tape recorders may not be used in the classroom. Use of recording devices without the permission of all parties being recorded is a crime in California. Considering the nature of the subject material and the exams, taping wouldn't be of much use anyway.
© 2002 by Curtis Clark