Practicalities

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and I had better get my act together again. I thought a good way to get going would be say a few words about the practical work of the Ethics Education Committee in the year to come, very much in the hopes that some of our readers here at the Ethicist will see an angle in it that they might find engaging. In addition to attracting Academy members who might like to work directly with the committee, I’m also looking for ways that the committee might make a contribution to the work of the various divisions.

Let me begin with the blog, which we’re hoping will become a major site of activity in the months to come. This is a place where we can discuss the sorts of ethical issues that are faced by Academy members, both as scholars and as professionals. It is also a place where we can can develop the form and content of the materials we contribute to ethics education throughout the Academy. Currently, I’m very focused on the contribution we can make to the doctoral and early-career researcher consortia over the coming years. I will have some news about that soon.

My hope is that the blog can be a place where the Academy’s members can have some influence on what we mean by ethics and how we teach it.  This is the sort of question I tried to raise in my post about the two major approaches to ethics education we tried out in Vancouver.

In Vancouver I was also given the “keys” to the Ethicist’s Twitter account, which I will be trying to promote in the weeks to come. Do please help me help its future followers find it by retweeting the stuff you think is interesting. This, of course, will also give us a better sense of what you do, in fact, find interesting to talk about.

As a general framework for thinking about what the Committee can contribute, I want to propose we think about the ideal presentation, centered on the contents of the Academy of Management’s Code of Ethics, that might be delivered in 5, 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes. What would be the most important topics and principles to cover? What would be the best way to engage an audience of the Academy’s members (usually doctoral students or early-career researchers)? What’s a sure-fire way to lose them?

To my mind, ethics is a practice by which we form our moral characters. It is both individual and social. It’s the means by which we help each other become better people, and remain good in the face of life’s many pressures. It is a very practical business.

4 thoughts on “Practicalities”

  1. I applaud the sentiments expressed on this blog but I am deeply skeptical of any attempts to teach ethics other than by our everyday conduct and, perhaps more importantly, the conduct of the leaders of our field. The currency of our realm remains publications in top-tier journals but the editors of many of our top journals appear to continue to tolerate the gamut of unethical research behaviors (HARKing, p-hacking, the Chryssalis Effect, researcher degrees of freedom, and the various shenanigans involving structural equation modeling that have been documented by the most recent SIOP presidential address as well as on pubpeer.com and elsewhere). Graduate students and junior faculty see these behaviors – and the fact that they are being rewarded so spectacularly by publications and promotions – and it seems naive to believe that many of them will not model this behavior to advance their own careers. Until our journals decide to act decisively against such wilful misconduct all ethics classes and workshops are likely to be ignored.

  2. @anon123: Thanks for the comment. (Sorry about the slowness in approving it, by the way. The problem should be fixed now.) I basically agree that the argument for ethics is best made by example and, currently, against the grain of some pretty perverse incentives. (See Cameron Neyon’s interesting post on this.) Since these incentives probably have to change as whole and for all and more or less at once, change will probably have to come as the result of a long conversation. That’s the one we’re trying to facilitate here.

  3. I agree that the incentives are indeed often perverse but many of the incentives are out of the control of members of AoM. What we do have some control over is what we publish in our top journals and what we do when glaring errors in published work are identified. I have been in the field a fairly long time but I find myself unwilling to believe much of what is published in our journals anymore. The work on the Chrysallis Effect, researcher degrees of freedom, p-hacking and HARKing makes it clear that a substantial proportion of our collective scholarship cannot be trusted, but it is impossible to know precisely what to trust and what not to trust.

    If you told me that 5% or 10% of my favorite cereal brand is infested with worms but that I can only tell that after I have purchased the cereal (or have tried to eat it) I can guarantee you that I would no longer purchase that cereal. Similarly, I feel disinclined to continue to “purchase” many of the paper published in journals like AMJ or JOM – or recommend them to others.

  4. This is exactly the right issue to focus on. We need to develop robustly ethical publication practices so that people are once again willing to trust us. Part of this has to do with what happens when we do discover a “worm-infested” article. Do editors and colleagues seem to care? Or do they merely shrug and make you feel like a pedant?

    I once discovered a shelf-full of hot wings in the local supermarket that were a month over their best-before date. The store clerk I pointed it out to didn’t really seem interested. He didn’t hurry over to check out the problem, but sort of sauntered on with his day. I guess he’d “get to them” when he was ready. Needless to say, I’ve had a hard time “buying” anything there ever since.

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