Happy Birthday! Taking Stock of THE ETHICIST’s First Year

KEY INSIGHT:  THE ETHICIST has been running as a blog on AOM Connect for a year now so it makes sense for its creators and bloggers to take stock of what the blog has (and has not) accomplished over the past year, and to think creatively about how to move ahead.  We will hold a Caucus session, “THE ETHICIST: THE INFORMAL ECONOMY AND SCHOLARSHIP, TEACHING AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE ETHICS,” to discuss this issue at the Boston AOM annual meetings in August 2012. Please join us!


The creators of THE ETHICIST and members of the Ethics Education Committee will hold a Caucus session, “THE ETHICIST: THE INFORMAL ECONOMY AND SCHOLARSHIP, TEACHING AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE ETHICS,” at the upcoming Boston AOM annual meetings. The caucus is scheduled for Tuesday August 7, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm in the Columbus 1 room at the Marriott Boston Copley Place Hotel (session # 1557 in the program). The purpose of the caucus is to brainstorm about THE ETHICIST and its role(s) it can play in fostering ethics education within the Academy of Management.

To kick start the discussions, I would like to pose some questions for you, and provide you with a bit of background about THE ETHICIST.


  1. Have you read any of THE ETHICIST postings?  If so, please identify which one(s) and comment on their quality and/or usefulness.
  2.  Over the past year, has THE ETHICIST been used by you and/or your colleagues or by your graduate students either in the classroom or as part of a brown-bag discussion of ethical issues at your institution?  If not, could you imagine it being used in one or more of these ways?
  3.  What suggestions would you have for topics for THE ETHICIST to cover during 2012-2013?
  4.  What methods or suggestions would you recommend we adopt to increase the visibility, quality and usefulness of THE ETHICIST to AOM members? To you as an AOM member?
  5.  Are there other media (e.g., instructor’s notes, links to the Ethics Education Committee’s videos on YouTube) that could be used to increase the value proposition of THE ETHICIST for AOM members?



Now for a bit of history.

THE ETHICIST began as a Strategic Initiative proposal by AOM’s Ethics Education Committee to the AOM Board of Governors.  The blog was designed to be an “innovative plan to engage [AOM] members in ethics dialogue”.  Group Information about the blog states that:

THE ETHICIST is a blog where AOM members can discuss ethical issues that affect their research, teaching and professional lives. THE ETHICIST communicates the Academy’s commitment to ethical conduct as a priority of the organization. The purpose of the blog is to raise awareness about everyday ethical issues and ethics in the context of the Academy and the profession. The blog also provides a location for experts to respond to members’ questions and concerns about ethics. The blog is sponsored by the AOM Ethics Education Committee; its co-chairs are James Davis (Notre Dame) and Susan Madsen (Utah Valley).

THE ETHICIST, coordinated by Lorraine Eden, was designed to have three regular columnists:

One article per month was to be written by each columnist, in rotation, starting with Research in August 2011, followed by Teaching, and Professional Life. Each columnist was to be assisted by an advisory panel of four-to-six individuals chosen by the columnist. The AOM Ethics Committee and Ethics Education Committee were also to be members of each advisory panel. The advisory panels were to suggest topics and provide comments on drafts of articles before publication on THE ETHICIST website. The blog format allowed for comments to be posted by any member of the Academy, with the specific intent on encouraging an open dialogue among AOM members about ethical issues.  Any AOM member could suggest a topic for THE ETHICIST by sending an email to the coordinator and/or the columnists.



In fact, we have done very much what the original plan for THE ETHICIST was, as outlined above.  We have written and posted monthly blogs that were (for the most part) circulated ahead of time for comments to our advisory panels.  We have tried to make the posting both informative and relevant, and to stimulate discussion about ethical issues affecting the Academy. THE ETHICIST is now highlighted on the “ETHICS @ AOM” webpage; AOM members receive the blogs as “push emails” from AOM headquarters; and non-AOM members can subscribe through an RSS feed.  A list of the blog posts is provided below (each is hyperlinked to the original article).

  • July 2012 – Ethics in Professional Life – Paul Vaaler – Outside Appointments
  • June 2012 – Ethics in Education – Kathy Lund Dean – Help! My students want to friend me! Boundaries, relationships and the “yuck” factor in professor—student interactions
  • May 2012 – Ethics in Research – Lorraine Eden – Slicing and Dicing: Ex Post Approaches
  • April 2012 – Ethics in Professional Life – Paul Vaaler – Peer Reviewing
  • March 2012 – Ethics in Education – Kathy Lund Dean – What do we do when students despair? Considering pedagogical caring
  • February 2012 – Ethics in Research – Lorraine Eden – Slicing and Dicing: Ex Ante Approaches
  • January 2012 – Ethics in Professional Life – Paul Vaaler – Managing University Service Work
  • December 2011 – Ethics in Education – Kathy Lund Dean – Peer pressure, or, I thought I was out of high school
  • November 2011 – Ethics in Research – Lorraine Eden – Double-Blind Review in the Age of Google and PowerPoint
  • November 2011 – Ethics in Research – Lorraine Eden – AOM Videos on “Ethics in Research & Publication”
  • October 2011 – Ethics in Education – Kathy Lund Dean – The increase of retractions
  • October 2011 – Ethics in Professional Life – Paul Vaaler – Ethical Issues in Professional Life: Codes and Conflicts of Interest
  • September 2011 – Ethics in Education – Kathy Lund Dean – Teaching & ethics: A critical incident
  • September 2011 – Ethics in Education – Kathy Lund Dean – The Teaching ETHICIST: Beyond course content
  • August 2011 – Ethics in Research – Lorraine Eden –Scientists Behaving Badly: Insights from the Fraud Triangle
  • July 2011 – THE ETHICIST – Lorraine Eden – Welcome to THE ETHICIST!



 While we can congratulate ourselves on having met the process goals that we set for ourselves a year ago, it is less clear that we have achieved the true purpose of this Strategic Initiative Proposal, which was to involve the members of the Academy in an ethics dialogue.

In terms of visible ways to count numbers, we appear to have reached only a very few AOM members. For example, THE ETHICIST as an “AOM Group” only has 31 members on AOM Connect. In addition to our 15 blog posts there have been only 18 comments posted, some of them posted by us responding to comments, others by Ethics Education Committee members.

While the visible numbers may be a poor measure of the actual numbers who have read our blog posts, those of us involved in THE ETHICIST worry a bit that “we happy few” may be engaged in a dialogue whereby only a few faculty – mostly Ethics Education Committee members – are talking to themselves.  If the blog is to achieve its Strategic Doing goals, we need to increase THE ETHICIST’S visibility and impact within the Academy.

Those of us involved in “birthing the baby” and nurturing it through its first year of life therefore celebrate THE ETHICIST’s first birthday – but with a bit of worry about whether the blog will survive past its second birthday. (In August 2013 the current ETHICS EDUCATION COMMITTEE members step down and are replaced by new individuals who assume the committee responsibilities.  Will there be other bloggers willing to replace us? Will the EE Committee see the blog as worthwhile to continue? )

I hope to see you in Boston in August where we can continue this conversation and look forward to your responses posted on THE ETHICIST.  Everyone is welcome; please join us!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:   This blog post arose from stock-taking discussions among Jim Davies, Kathy Lund Dean, Susan Madsen, Paul Vaaler and I about THE ETHICIST as we prepared for our AOM caucus in Boston, and I thank them for their inputs.  I also want to thank Jean Bartunek for helpful suggestions on this posting. I take full responsibility for the views expressed herein.

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[1]  Kathy is moving to take up a new position at Gustavus Adolphus College. Her new address as of August 2012 is Kathy Lund Dean, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Leadership & Ethics, Gustavus Adolphus College, 800 West College Avenue, Saint Peter, MN  56082. Email: lunddean@adolphus.edu.

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