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CODE: The Collaborative Online Discussion on Ethics

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Written by Brian Zaharatos

Posted on 16 March 2014

Pursuing a degree at Mines provides ample opportunity to think a lot about the technical aspects of science, engineering, and technology. Sometimes it is really easy to get lost in the details. Getting lost in the details often means that one forgets to step back, look at the big picture, and ask why. Solving technical problems is often interesting and fun; but, along with asking how to do X, we should also ask why ought X be done.

Luckily, for graduate students, there is a new service on campus that allows students to step back and ask these crucial questions. The service is called the Collaborative Online Discussion on Ethics (CODE). The purpose of CODE is to explore new ways to for students to develop ethical responsibilities in the context of applied science and engineering education. CODE takes place on a Blackboard discussion group where users are able to anonymously post questions and comments about ethical issues. The goal is to create a nonthreatening environment to discuss and find resources on important 'big picture' questions that have ethical content. One aspect of CODE that is particularly awesome is that there is no time commitment or obligation; one can log in and participate whenever one sees fit.

Questions posted on CODE are quite varied. Here are some recent questions that have been discussed:

1. How can we improve advisor-graduate student relationships on this campus?
2. What improvements could be made to make life at CSM more balanced, rewarding, pleasant, or inclusive?
3. What responsibilities do we have to each other?
4. What obligations do we have with respect to the environment?

In addition to these discussion topics, the CODE organizers have added a great list of resources meant to supplement the ongoing discussions. Particularly interesting are the resources on gender equality—which include resources exploring questions about the dearth of women in science and how to manage a good work-family balance—and the ethical beliefs of well-known scientists, including Albert Einstein.

CODE provides a great environment for thinking about the important aspects of science, technology, and engineering that are (unfortunately!) sometimes overlooked in our formal studies. If you are interested in joining the discussion, please contact Diane Witters ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or Mirna Mattjik ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).
Colorado School of Mines

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