Course code WUT3
Course title Ethical Aspects of Research and Engineering
Institution Warsaw University of Technology
Course address Faculty of Electronics and Information Technology, Nowowiejska str. 15/19
City Warsaw, Poland
Minimum year of study 3rd year
Minimum level of English Good
Minimum level of French None
Key words Ethics, R&D ethics, information process, intellectual property, IT usage
Language English
Professor responsible Roman Z. Morawski, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Telephone + 48 22 234 7721
Fax + 48 22 825 3769
Participating professors

Roman Z. Morawski 
Prof. Roman Z. Morawski, Faculty of Electronics and Information Technology

Number of places Minimum: 16, Maximum: 20, Reserved for local students: 0

1. General formation-related objectives:

  • to make students sensitive to moral values related to R&D;
  • to prepare students for undertaking the responsibility for ethical quality of R&D activities;
  • to prepare students for resolving ethical dilemmas that appear in R&D practice;
  • to help students in developing individual personal ethical stance with respect to R&D issues.

2. Knowledge-related objectives:

  • to extend basic knowledge concerning general ethics as a philosophical discipline;
  • to identify ethical issues related to R&D activities;
  • to introduce the methodology of resolving ethical dilemmas related to R&D activities.

3. Skills-related objectives:

  • to enhance skills of critical analysis of ethical aspects of R&D activities;
  • to enhance skills of discussing and defending one’s own ethical stance;
  • to encourage students to develop habits of continual reflection over ethical aspects of their every-day activities.
Programme to be followed

Lecture Contents:

1. Elements of meta-ethics and general ethics (4 h)

  • the definition of ethics, and the structure of ethics as a philosophical discipline;
  • the definition of meta-ethics as the methodology of ethics;
  • the historical development of ethics;
  • the relation of ethics to other philosophical disciplines;
  • the relation of ethics to law, religion and etiquette;
  • the relation of ethics to psychology, sociology and other social sciences.

2. Methodological background of R&D ethics (2 h)

  • the definitions of truth and their ethical consequences;
  • the crisis of truth in the postmodern culture;
  • the naïve concept of scientific method and its criticism;
  • the epistemological status of mathematical modelling and measurement.

3. Ethical aspects of principal R&D activities (4 h)

  • the choice of a research problem or of a design object;
  • ethical aspects of the choice of an R&D methodology;
  • ethical aspects of the design and execution of experiments and tests;
  • ethical aspects of the acquisition and processing of experimental data;
  • ethical aspects of the experimentation and testing with the involvement of live organisms;
  • the evolution of R&D ethics;
  • an example of a R&D-related ethical dilemma.

4. Ethical aspects of information processes (4 h)

  • the definition of an information process;
  • ethical issues related to the scientific or technical discussion;
  • ethical issues related to the publication of R&D results;
  • ethical issues related to the reviewing process;
  • ethical issues related to grant applications.

5. Protection of intellectual property – legal and ethical aspects (2 h)

  • ethical issues related to legal protection of author's rights;
  • ethical issues related to patenting;
  • an ethical argumentation against legal protection of material rights.

6. Ethical aspects of using information technologies (ITs) (2 h)

  • a classification of ethical issues related to IT usage;
  • a basic approach of ethical problems related to IT usage;
  • the netiquette or internet ethics and its relation to the journalists ethics;
  • ethical dilemmas related to IT usage.

7. Summary and conclusions (2 h)

8. Class test (2 h)

Scope of class tutorials:

  • T1. Art and science of ethical discourse (2 h)
  • T2. Ethical dilemmas related to R&D principal activities 2 h)
  • T3. Ethical dilemmas related to data processing and publication (2 h)
  • T4. Ethical dilemmas related to legal protection of IP (2 h)
  • T5. Ethical dilemmas related to new technologies (2 h)

Class tutorial #T1:

  • Bragg 2017 – Kant's categorical imperative (MP3)
  • Scruton 2013 – Moral relativism (MP3)

Class tutorial #T2:

  • Bailey 2016 – Sugar industry secretly paid for favorable Harvard research (PDF)
  • Livio 2013 – Brilliant blunders from Darwin to Einstein (MP3)

Class tutorial #T3:

  • Wiley 2014 – Best practice guidelines on publishing ethics (PDF)
  • Berger 2017 – Everything you ever wanted to know about predatory publishing (PDF)

Class tutorial #T4:

  • Martin 1995 – Against intellectual property (PDF)
  • Posner 2008 – Copyright (MP3)

Class tutorial #T5:

  • Scherer & Jenkins 2017 – Law and ethics of artificial intelligence (MP3)
  • Buchanan 2017 – The limits and possibilities of biomedical enhancement (MP3)

Sources of individual readings and inspiration for class tutorials will be available at the address: not later than two weeks before the ATHENS session.

Prerequisites None
Course exam Written two-part exam