The DBIO blog is happy to announce that it will post news and discussion on “Information Ethics” by and for members of the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences (DBIO), Special Libraries Association.
While the eventual written formulation of guidelines, and ultimately, expert advice on how they might be applied in your specific situation, will likely be in the hands of the volunteer (but by no means amateur) Ethics Ambassadors introduced below, the process will run much better if you, our DBIO members send the Ambassadors your own ethical platform planks, stories, and predictions.
To generate discussion and idea sharing, the DBIO Ethics Ambassadors are working on seed ideas. Here are some of them, retold by myself with examples, after having discussed them in a conference call:
Seed Idea: Competition & Limits to Sharing Purchased Content
In an Age that Favors “Open Access.”
Open access to biomedical information is the new watchword for many scientists, colleges and universities, and the general public. Yet competition among research groups , hospital networks, and for-profit biotech firms often requires us to keep not only proprietary information secret, but to place limits on assisting rivals with purchased content, or even with “open information” with the time and resources of our own institutions, a stance that many corporate & legal librarians in SLA have long espoused as necessary for an employer’s economic viability & protection of their intellectual property and creative capital, but which may go against current trends in the DBIO world. Can DBIO members suggest ethical guidelines for librarians and information professionals that reflects a balance between these potentially conflicting values of seeming to serve humanity with freely given information while undercutting the private firms that often drive the progress for humanity that is worth reporting, and who, after all, employ us as team members? Do our own employers understand copyright and related fees on a granular level, i.e. when they have to pay out for it of their own budgets, or when you tell them it will not be shared by the rights holder?
Seed idea: Who Has the Right to Decide What to Do with Adverse Archival Data
on Drug, Equipment or Procedural Trials:
the Curating Librarian or the Company that Paid for Them?
There are many news stories about drug researchers of medical equipment makers whose products, in the long run, had side-effects or other unfortunate consequences for some patients. The media and trial attorneys for plaintiffs often suggest that the company hid or destroyed prior adverse information during the development of the prescription or the procedure, saying with certitude that this information would have prevented all possible adverse outcomes, presumably in all situations with all patients. Arguing against that position is the fact that the development of virtually all things medical have experienced setbacks, some of which informed the company to do a better job by switching to alternatives, or at least in gaining statistical insight on the rate of inevitable side-effects, in situations, that, on balance, help more people than are harmed . While no one suggests that corporate DBIO librarians should ever destroy research records that they are assigned to curate, when those records are ordered to be produced in court, what does a DBIO librarian do if they are asked to destroy records of adverse outcomes without any knowledge or insight on whether if a closed-down avenue of research might ever be reopened?
Seed Idea: Limits of Disclosure & Non-Disclosure in Negotiating with Vendors
Can DBIO members advise us about possible ethical guidelines in a core professional competency: vendor negotiation & purchasing? For example, how much do we disclose to vendors about the budgetary politics of our firm or institution, in the hopes of getting more time for a free trial or approval or a better price? Do we sign a deal with a vendor for a product or service, when we know that the institution’s or company’s finances are in such a state that prompt payment is not going to happen, because we were ordered to do so by the Business office? Would a published code really help us in such a situation? What can we tell our colleagues at other institutions or firms about what we disclosed to vendors, and what vendors disclosed to us, with the idea of helping them get better deals?
Seed Idea: Charity Begins at Home.
Many associations, including SLA, have sought to increase political and corporate support for outright donations, drastic reductions in prices, or even debt relief, in terms of sending or selling library & information resources to foreign countries with poor economies, or even to portions of our own country that experience an extraordinary catastrophe, like Hurricane Katrina. But this ignores the fact that many electronic consortial arrangements for information delivery, like access to full-text electronic journals, are routinely not extended to health care providers in poor and/or rural areas of the country. Hospital and clinic libraries are often non-existent, and the local public libraries, where they exist, often lack the expertise or budgetary justification to fund timely access, even via document delivery. Is it an ethical obligation for DBIO or SLA in general, to advocate for day-in, day-out full-text provision for rural healthcare that is at least as vigorous as its past appeals on behalf of distant lands, or locales in the US that have an atypicaly bad catastrophe? If we do advocate this, do we have an obligation to pay a reasonable designated surcharge to vendors in return to their heeding our call? Or, do we just vilify them as greedy if they attempt to recover their costs of doing what we ask?
Do You Have A Seed Idea? Here Are The People You Can Send It To:
(in alphabetical order)
SLA Bioethics Ambassador Bonnie Chojnacki
Bonnie Chojnacki has participated in an annual international intensive bioethics course at the Kennedy Institute for Ethics, Georgetown University. She also received an Information Ethics Fellowship from the University of Pittsburgh while earning her master’s degree in library and information sciences (MLIS). In addition to her master’s degree, Bonnie earned an undergraduate degree with honors in philosophy from Chatham University (BA) and received a second Fellowship during her tenure as a librarian at the University of Maryland, College Park for participation in curriculum transformation and innovations in science pedagogy.
Complementary experiences distinguish Bonnie’s career. For the past ten years she has worked as an academic librarian in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In Pennsylvania Bonnie has held faculty positions with the libraries at the Community College of Allegheny County, Duquesne University, and the University of Pittsburgh. At the University of Maryland she was a life sciences librarian, departmental liaison, and science representative in establishing an ongoing partnership with the Library of Congress. Before beginning her professional identity as a librarian, Bonnie was a research associate with the Center for Medical Ethics and the Consortium Ethics Programs at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Prior to that she was engaged in scientific research at several institutions including: the Institute for Transfusion Medicine, Central Blood Bank, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, University of Pittsburgh; and the Department of Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University. In the latter position, as an Assistant Research Biologist, Bonnie directed a departmental facility.
SLA Bioethics Ambassador Diane Hummel
Diane Hummel graduated with a master’s degree in information and library science (MLIS) from University of Michigan and a master’s degree in education (MA) from Western Michigan University. She has managed Spectrum Health Nursing, Consumer, and Health Sciences Libraries for twenty-four years. She has served as President of the Michigan Health Sciences Library Association, the West Michigan Special Library Association, the Michigan Library Consortium Board, and the Library of Michigan Shared Futures Council. Diane currently serves on the Grand Rapids Chapter of the University of Michigan Alumni Council as Chair of the Medical Humanities Significant Interest Group (SIG) of the Central Group on Educational Affairs (CGEA), a Midwest regional division of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Prior to coming to Spectrum, Diane served in a variety of public and academic leadership roles at the Michigan Employment Security Commission, Olivet College, and the Kalamazoo County Health Department. She also served as Press Section Chief for the Michigan Army National Guard Public Affairs Detachment.
SLA Bioethics Ambassador Ellen Schellhause
Ellen Schellhause graduated from University of Kentucky’s College of Library and Information Science with a Masters degree (MSLS). She is currently Health Science Librarian and Director of the Crawford Health Sciences Library at University of Illinois-Chicago College of Medicine at the Rockford campus. Prior to coming to UIC, Ellen was Library Director at the Mary Breckenridge Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing. She directed the Medical Information Resource Center for St. Joseph Medical Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana for a number of years. During her tenure at St. Joe she was a long standing member of the Ethics committee and co-authored several articles on teaching ethics to nurses. Ellen is also a member of the Medical Library Association, Midwest Chapter MLA, Health Science Librarians of Illinois, and past president of Indiana Health Sciences Library Association.
Some Working Policies As We Begin Together
Please note that it is likely that the ambassadors will share the information with one another when necessary to provide for better decision-making on what initiatives to pursue, what policies to publish, and what advice, if any, they can give. Decisions may be conveyed in the form of a collective by-line, like SLA’s DBIO or Bioethics Ambassadors.
If you or your employer do not wish to be identified as the source of a idea, question or dilemma, please advise the Ambassadors and they will keep that information disguished or private, as you wish.
The ambassadors, while all professionally employed, do not singly, or collectively, necessarily express the opinions of their employers, or even of SLA HQ. They are just dedicated professionals responding to a call to help you get it right!
Tony Stankus, firstname.lastname@example.org Life Sciences Librarian & Professor
University of Arkansas Libraries MULN 223E
3655 McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AE 72701-4002