Choose a contemporary area of inquiry that is particularly fraught with pitfalls in scientific ethics or integrity, in which good science is intermingled with questionable claims – for instance, the search for exterrestrial life, research into medical use

 Option 2: a variant of the previous

Choose a contemporary area of inquiry that is particularly fraught with pitfalls in scientific ethics or integrity, in which good science is intermingled with questionable claims – for instance, the search for exterrestrial life, research into medical uses of marijuana, research into the connection between gun laws and violence, the discourse surrounding climate change, etc. This might be because of a connection to a particularly profitable industry, the ulterior motives of people seeking political power, the tendency to affirm or refute deeply-held biases, or sensationalistic interest by the public or by those involved. Give a brief description of the pitfalls. How has the scientific process run off the rails or been abused in this area? How should inquiry in this area be conducted, and what should people be especially wary of? How should we ensure, in Feynman’s words, that we do not fool ourselves? Are there any narratives in the history of your chosen topic where people have done an exemplary job of ensuring ethics and integrity and “doing it right”? A note on politics: This topic may lead you into political territory. It is perfectly okay to have clear opinions. For instance, if you believe that one side of an issue has more merit than the other, you do not need to spend “equal time” articulating the position of the “other side” that you believe is faulty. (We will of course evaluate your work based on whether you state your positions well and thoughtfully, not whether the person grading your paper agrees with you!) However, your paper should focus on the challenges of conducting scientific inquiry into your topic and how your topic should be studied without bias; it shouldn’t simply be an advocacy paper for a particular policy position. For instance: Last year we got quite a few mediocre papers that mostly repeated common arguments for the legalization of marijuana, and didn’t address the central question of “How should scientific research into the effects of marijuana be conducted, given all the difficulties in doing such research honestly?”

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