module specification

BS5K55 - Ethics for Science (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Ethics for Science
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Human Sciences
Total study hours 150
48 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
102 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
In-Course Test 50%   Time-constrained essay (1hr)
Group Presentation 50%   Group presentation (30mins)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Thursday Afternoon
Spring semester North Wednesday Afternoon

Module summary

This module introduces different normative philosophical bases for ethical decision-making, and gives opportunities for critically applying these principles and approaches to a range of contemporary moral issues in the human sciences.

Module aims

This module aims to introduce underlying concepts of normative ethics and processes of ethical decision-making, and to offer the opportunity for in-depth critical examination of specific ethical issues and dilemmas in the human sciences. It will enable the exploration of different approaches to ethical issues in scientific research and practice, and will provide students with an awareness of the scope of the field of bioethics. In addition, it aims to facilitate the development of moral reasoning skills that may be applied in practical contexts, and to provide a supportive environment for the development of competence in written and oral presentation. Finally, the module will introduce students to professional ethics and codes of conduct in the human sciences.


Introduction to philosophical ethics and concepts of moral development.
Critical exploration of normative theories and principles guiding ethical decision-making.
Ethical governance/codes of conduct in the human sciences; professional ethics.
Processes in the development of a reasoned ethical argument.
In-depth discussion of ethical issues involved in (for example):
Use of embryonic/foetal tissue (e.g. stem cell harvesting, foetal rights, foetal pain, development of personhood etc.).
Assisted reproductive technologies (IVF, surrogacy, cloning).
Use of human subjects and animals in research and drug development.
Allocation of health care resources.
Abortion; euthanasia; organ transplantation
Ethics in scientific research practices;
Genetic testing and screening; development and use of gene therapies.
Data collection and storage; confidentiality.
Public health ethics.

Learning and teaching

The subject will be addressed through an integrated programme of lectures, with supporting material and exercises, together with the use of student-centred learning resources.  Lectures will be used to provide a conceptual framework.  Some lectures will be inter-active/discussion forums, involving group activities.  Student-centred assignments will enable students to reinforce and expand their knowledge as well as to obtain competence in ethical argument.  Tutorials will address specific issues, and allow a venue for debate and presentations.  A Web-based VLE is available to support, reinforce and test student understanding with access to additional learning resources.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be expected to:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of normative ethics and processes of ethical decision making, in written and oral form
2. Clarify and critically explore the ethical and moral aspects of specific human science practices     and procedures, in written and oral form
3. Have developed and demonstrated skills in ethical reasoning and debate, with due regard for cultural differences and contexts
4. Show knowledge of professional ethics and codes of conduct in the human sciences, by applying these in the group presentation

Assessment strategy

The module is summatively assessed on two items of coursework.  However, an element of the examination situation is introduced by requiring students to write Assignment A under time-constrained, supervised conditions, without books.  A bibliography may be brought by the student and appended to their script. 
Students must obtain a minimum aggregate mark of 40% to pass the module.

Assignment A: (50%): Time-constrained in-class test -
Students will be expected to write a paper outlining selected moral theories that might be used as the basis for rational ethical decision-making in the human sciences. 

Assignment B: (50%): Group presentation -
Student groups will select a case-study incorporating a scientific dilemma, and will be required to debate their assessment of the data and provide an ethical evaluation of the possible outcomes.  Students within their groups will be required to present different aspects of ethical arguments applied to their case-study. (N.B. assessment weighting is divided into 30% for group-work, 20% for individual contribution).

All items of coursework will also be used to provide formative feedback.

Component Learning outcome
Time-constrained essay (1 hour) 1, 2
Group presentation (30 min) 1, 2, 3, 4



Beauchamp TL and Childress JF.  (2008).  Principles of Biomedical Ethics (6th edition).  Oxford University Press.
DeGrazia D, Mappes T and Ballard J. (2010). Biomedical Ethics (7th edition). McGraw-Hill.
Campbell AV. (2009) The body in Bioethics. Routledge-Cavendish
Glannon W. (2005), Biomedical Ethics, Oxford University Press.
Kuhse H and Singer P (eds).  (2006).  Bioethics: An Anthology (Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies).  Blackwell Publishers.
Mepham B (2008).  Bioethics; an introduction for the biosciences.  Oxford University Press
Pence G (2000).  Classic cases in medical ethics (3rd edition).  McGraw Hill.
Schartz L, Preece P and Hendry R (2002).  Medical Ethics; a case based approach.  Saunders.
Wilkinson TM. (2011) Ethics and the Acquisition of Organs (Issues in Biomedical Ethics). Oxford University Press.