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Writing and Analyzing Ethics Cases in Business
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  1. Writing and Analyzing Ethics Cases in Business William Frey ADMI 6005

  2. The Key Points • A Case Taxonomy • How to choose your case • A template for writing and analyzing your case • Poster Presentations: a proposal

  3. Examples • onlineethics.org • Killer Robot Case • APPE cases in graduate research ethics • computingcases.org • Therac-25 • Hughes Aircraft • Machado • uprm.edu/etica

  4. Five Kinds of Cases • Thick vs. Thin • Thin cases are useful for abstracting a single point and focusing work on that point. • Thick cases can give the student practice in making ethical decisions in the full context of the messy real world. • Historical vs. Hypothetical • Based in actual experience in the field. • These provide excitement and immediate relevance. • Cases that are hypothetical, fictional, or abstract remove much of the impact of the historical case, but allow freedom to structure the discussion on specific issues.

  5. Five Kinds of Cases • Good vs. Bad News cases • Tendency in ethics is focus on bad news • Questionable choices cause bad outcomes. • Grabs the imagination and motivates attention • but can give the false impression that business and research ethics is primarily about staying out of trouble. • Balance bad news with good news • Morally exemplary scientists and engineers overcome obstacles and realize moral value

  6. Five Kinds of Cases • Big vs. Small News cases • Disasters and corruption are in the media. • Like Denathor looking through the palentir controlled by Sauron • What he sees is true but one-sidedly bad • Disasters are rare • Focusing on avoiding disasters leaves out important issues. • Small news cases are more likely because they portray everyday problems confronting scientists and engineers • Collecting data, integrating specifications, responding to constraints, making timely decisions, etc. • Students gain insight and practice in managing the issues that they are most likely to encounter

  7. Five Kinds of Cases Participant Evaluator Case approached from standpoint of judge Case introduces ethical principles and concepts Case helps to distinguish ethical principles and rules and decide which is best for which situation • Case approached from standpoint of participant • Participant integrates ethical considerations into solutions designed and implemented in real world • Case poses real world constraints such as uncertainty and shortage of time

  8. Example: Aquaculture Case(NSF SBR-9810253) • Original version: A local aquaculture facility near Ponce was closed by the EPA for violating environmental standards. The EPA claimed they shot birds from endangered species (because the birds were eating the crop, e.g., lobster fingerlings) and also that they dumped untreated waste water into the local river. • Question: Was the EPA just or unjust in closing the facility?

  9. The students rewrote this case… • The EPA has informed an aquaculture facility that they are in violation of environmental regulations (shooting endangered birds; improper disposal of waste water). • This facility has two months to submit a compliance report. To write this report, they have hired a group of engineers as consultants. • You are one of the consultants. Describe several possible compliance responses. Compare these in terms of the ethical implications and feasibility.

  10. What does student version add? • Case approached from perspective of participant rather than judge • Requires a response that integrates technical and ethical components • it is interdisciplinary • Business/ engineering skill/knowledge required to specify the ethical problem. • Elicits a proactive rather than a reactive, judgmental response.

  11. What you are going to do • Write several scenarios • Choose one • Identify paths for developing this scenario into a case that involves business, government, and society issues (emphasizing their ethical import) • Develop a case study and analysis • See template used in Toysmart case (m14789) • Prepare a poster presentation for end of semester

  12. Choosing Your Case • Tie to your areas of interest and research • Look for an ethical issue such as… • Avoiding harm • Integrating ethical and financial value • Balancing and respecting stakeholder rights • Transforming a dysfunctional corporate environment • Case should be accompanied with reliable, accessible information • Look for information on its socio-technical system • Case should be interesting and engaging. The time you spend preparing it should be time well spent.

  13. Toysmart: A Useful Template • Toysmartraises ethical issues • Privacy: Should the Toysmart customer data base be sold to a third party against Toysmart’s explicit promise? • Intellectual Property: Who owns our TGI and PII? Can privacy issues be resolved into property issues? • Case provides a new “take” on traditional issues such as making and keeping promises, respecting privacy, and protecting (intellectual) property?

  14. General Structure • Abstract • Provides a quick entry into the case. This might be very much like your beginning scenario • Historical Narrative • Here, in about 5 to 10 pages you try to detail the “story” of your case. Elements of a narrative include a beginning, a middle point, and an end. Narratives have protagonists, antagonists, and other participants. Protagonists confront challenges and do different things to meet them. • Socio-Technical System • The case narrative unfolds into a particular STS • This STS embodies certain values (moral and non-moral) that come into conflict and create the drama that unfolds in the case’s narrative.

  15. General Structure • Key elements of the STS • Stakeholders • People and groups that have vital interests • The roles they play. • Conflicts that arise from differences and incompatibilities in stakeholder interests • Legal Trail • A chart exploring important laws, statutes, and regulations that form part of the constraints of your case • Procedures • Organizational Structures. In Toysmart, how customers went to Toysmart’s webpage, found toys, purchased them. • Information Structures: how Toysmart collected, stored, used, and transferred information

  16. Case Chronology • What happened in your case? In what order? • A chronology is one way to explore a case narrative • A good chronology also helps you to identify information gaps. • Who are the major players in your case? • Get this from the stakeholder part of the STS

  17. Participant Perspectives • Cases unfold according to the decisions made in key points in the narrative. The decision makers and what they do form participant perspectives • Toysmart: Fateful decisions • Lord decides to go with Disney financing • Toysmart uses its corporate value structure to help it develop a privacy policy. (This leads to working with TRUSTe) • TRUSTe takes a hit in the real player case. This leads to a decisive altering in its monitoring of those using its seal • Decisions made in liquidating Toysmart assets in bankruptcy proceedings • Whether to sell customer data base • How to sell the data base (Opt in or opt out) • Choose a decision point and take a decision • Specify problem • Generate solutions • Test solutions • Implement solutions

  18. Ethical Reflections • These are explorations of some of the complications surrounding key intermediate moral concepts in the case • Biomatrix—Free Speech • Defamation: slander and libel • Responsibility of OSPs (As publishers, distributers or common carriers) • Key point in Biomatrix: exploration of actions of BXM Police under Bandura’s schema for evading responsibility • Toysmart—Intellectual Property and Privacy • How the Internet transforms property and privacy • Cyber Corporation (History of corporation and how the Internet transforms these) • Cyber Jeeves (Software that negotiates with other software for terms for exchanging information—Configuring software/browsers with your privacy preferences) • Machado—Free Speech and Privacy • Looking at how a STS instruments different kinds of actions and decisions

  19. Agenda for Fall 2010 • November 4 • Lecture + Workshop • November 11 • Technological Lenses: Determinism and Social Constructionism • November 18 • Group Article Presentations • November 23 • Environmental Ethics • December 2 • Ethics of Risk • December 9 • Corporate Social Responsibility • December 16 and 23 • Case study presentations