Research Ethics Reading List: Summer/Fall 2018

Welcome to Research Ethics Reading List, a new feature from Ampersand where we feature books in or adjacent to the field of research ethics that we think you’ll find interesting, motivating, inspiring,  challenging, or some combination of the four! Books featured will be a combination of new releases, classics in the field, or underexposed gems we think are worth a look. (Book description copy comes courtesy of each book’s publisher or author website where possible).

Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech
Sara Wachter-Boettcher

“A revealing look at how tech industry bias and blind spots get baked into digital products―and harm us all. Buying groceries, tracking our health, finding a date: whatever we want to do, odds are that we can now do it online. But few of us ask why all these digital products are designed the way they are. It’s time we change that. Many of the services we rely on are full of oversights, biases, and downright ethical nightmares: Chatbots that harass women. Signup forms that fail anyone who’s not straight. Social media sites that send peppy messages about dead relatives. Algorithms that put more black people behind bars. Sara Wachter-Boettcher takes an unflinching look at the values, processes, and assumptions that lead to these and other problems. Technically Wrong demystifies the tech industry, leaving those of us on the other side of the screen better prepared to make informed choices about the services we use―and demand more from the companies behind them.”

Robot Ethics 2.0: From Autonomous Cars to Artificial Intelligence
Patrick Lin (Editor), Keith Abney (Editor), Ryan Jenkins (Editor)

“The robot population is rising on Earth and other planets. (Mars is inhabited entirely by robots.) As robots slip into more domains of human life—from the operating room to the bedroom—they take on our morally important tasks and decisions, as well as create new risks from psychological to physical. This makes it all the more urgent to study their ethical, legal, and policy impacts.”


She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity
Carl Zimmer

“In late April of 2018, the FBI apprehended a man they believed was the Golden State Killer, who had terrorized the state of California between 1974 and 1986 before fading into the stuff of campfire ghost stories. They had caught him, it emerged, using information from his distant relatives’ DNA stored in a genetic database. The power of this connection — heredity — is the locus of She Has Her Mother’s Laugh by Carl Zimmer, a science columnist for The New York Times. But heredity, Zimmer argues, is not just about the genes that pass from parent to child; it also involves what our cells pass down within our own bodies, and environmental factors like technological advances. His book provides a new, wider definition of the nature in nature vs nurture — one that’s clearly needed in a world where a 40-year-old cold case can be solved using consumer-based genetics tests.”

Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals
Temple Grandin

“It’s usually easy to pinpoint the cause of physical pain in animals, but to know what is causing them emotional distress is much harder. Drawing on the latest research and her own work, Grandin identifies the core emotional needs of animals. Then she explains how to fulfill them for dogs and cats, horses, farm animals, and zoo animals. Whether it’s how to make the healthiest environment for the dog you must leave alone most of the day, how to keep pigs from being bored, or how to know if the lion pacing in the zoo is miserable or just exercising, Grandin teaches us to challenge our assumptions about animal contentment and honor our bond with our fellow creatures. Animals Make Us Human is the culmination of almost thirty years of research, experimentation, and experience.”

Temple Grandin is a recipient of PRIM&R’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research Ethics (2017) and gave the Henry Spira Memorial Lecture at PRIM&R’s 2009 IACUC Conference. The recording of this session is available to PRIM&R members in the Knowledge Center.

Putting the Horse before Descartes: My Life’s Work on Behalf of Animals (Animals and Ethics) 
Bernard E. Rollin

“When philosopher Bernard Rollin was six years old, he visited an animal shelter and learned that unwanted dogs are put to sleep. That event shaped his moral outlook and initiated his concern for how animals are treated. In his irreverent memoir, Putting the Horse before Descartes, Rollin relates how he came to educate himself and others about the ethical treatment of animals and dedicate his life to improving animal welfare. Putting the Horse before Descartes showcases this passionate animal advocate at his best. In witty, often disarming detail, Rollin describes how he became an outspoken critic of how animals were treated in veterinary and medical schools and research laboratories. He recalls teaching veterinary students about ethical issues and engaging in face-offs with ranchers and cowboys about branding methods and rodeo roping competitions. Rollin also describes his efforts to legally mandate more humane conditions for agricultural and laboratory animals. As public concern about animal welfare and the safety of the food supply heighten, Rollin carries on his work on a global scaleùin classrooms, in lecture halls, in legislatures, in meetings of agricultural associations, in industrial settings, and in print.”

Bernard E. Rollin is a recipient of PRIM&R’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research Ethics (2016), and gave keynote addresses at PRIM&R’s 2012 and 2016 IACUC Conferences. The recordings of these sessions are available to PRIM&R members in the Knowledge Center.

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic
David Quammen

“The next big and murderous human pandemic, the one that kills us in millions, will be caused by a new disease—new to humans, anyway.  The bug that’s responsible will be strange, unfamiliar, but it won’t come from outer space.  Odds are that the killer pathogen—most likely a virus—will spill over into humans from a nonhuman animal.

Spillover is a work of science reporting, history, and travel, tracking this subject around the world.  For five years, I shadowed scientists into the field—a rooftop in Bangladesh, a forest in the Congo, a Chinese rat farm, a suburban woodland in Duchess County, New York—and through their high-biosecurity laboratories.  I interviewed survivors and gathered stories of the dead.  I found surprises in the latest research, alarm among public health officials, and deep concern in the eyes of researchers. I tried hard to deliver the science, the history, the mystery, and the human anguish as page-turning drama.”

Are there books related to research ethics that you enjoyed? Tell us about them in the comments!