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Committee Updates Goals and Guidelines

1 December 2009 776 views No Comment

The ASA’s Committee on Professional Ethics’ vision is to increase members’ knowledge of ethical issues so they are more prepared to face ethical challenges within their professional careers.

The committee’s activities are both proactive and reactive. Concerning the latter, the committee is a resource for ASA officers, the ASA Board of Directors, and ASA members. It provides guidance on ethical issues that affect the association or the work of statisticians worldwide. In recent years, the committee has been asked for comments on and recommendations for ethical issues concerning statistical dissemination, plagiarism, and accreditation.

On the proactive side, where the committee focuses most of its energies, the goal is to improve the knowledge and understanding of ethics and ethical issues among ASA members. To do this, several activities have been undertaken, including relaunching the ethical practices web site, where the guidelines for ethical practice are posted. The committee plans to add more materials, such as papers and presentations dealing with ethical issues and related work of other ASA committees and professional associations.

The site also has an expanding list of ethical scenarios designed to increase sensitivity and awareness of the difficult and sometimes precarious positions statisticians face. The committee aims to continually add to this list so the scenarios can become an integral part of continuing ethics education. Comments about the web site and ethical scenarios for possible inclusion in the collection can be sent to Tom Petska, committee chair, at tom.petska@verizon.net.

Another initiative of the committee is to organize and sponsor sessions at the Joint Statistical Meetings, such as the 2009 invited panel “Real-Life Ethical Dilemmas Encountered in the Practice of Statistics: Resolution Leading to Policy Change.” This session was organized by committee members Shelley Hurwitz and Don Bentley. Eminent statisticians in epidemiology, law, and government described their personal ethical dilemmas and, after some discussion and debate that included audience participation, revealed their resolutions.

The session was so successful that the committee is planning another session on ethical dilemmas for JSM 2010. Contact Hurwitz at hurwitz@hms.harvard.edu if you would like to present your ethical dilemma in a future JSM session.

The committee is always looking for more interest and involvement from ASA members. For example, the annual meeting of the committee, which takes place during JSM, is open to members. Also, for members who want to stay involved in ethical issues, participation in periodic conference calls is welcomed. Further, as members rotate off the committee, interest by other ASA members to join the committee is encouraged. If you would like to comment on the work or priorities of the committee, send a note to Petska at tom.petska@verizon.net.

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