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Research Ethics @ Noon

Grad Students and Postdocs: Join us for a drop-in series about research ethics, open to grad students and postdocs across the university. Each session features a Stanford researcher talking candidly about an ethical issue in his or her work. Come to ask related questions (you can submit one anonymously in advance if you wish), to share ethical dilemmas you've faced, or just to listen to the conversation.

Talks will be from 12 to 1 p.m. and lunch will be served. Space is limited, so RSVPs are required for each talk. RSVP links will be added below about one month in advance of each session. For questions about the series, please email Anne Newman.

Upcoming Talks

Wednesday, January 22, 2020: Greg Walton, Associate Professor of Psychology, "Ethical Issues in Wise Interventions: When You're Trying to Make People's Lives Better What Should You Test and When?" 

Greg Walton is Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford Unviersity. Much of his research investigates psychological processes that contribute to major social problems and how "wise" interventions that target these processes can address such problems and help people flourish, even over long periods of time. Dr. Walton's research has been covered in major media outlets including the New York Times, Harvard Business Review and NPR, and he has received awards from numerous organizations and was identified as a "Rising Star" by the American Psychological Society in 2011. At Stanford, he teaches courses on psychology and social problems, including one entitled "Wise Interventions." He earned his AB in Philosophy from Stanford in 2000 and a PhD in Psychology from Yale in 2005. After graduate school, he worked for a year as a fellow in the Office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Waterloo before joining the Stanford faculty in 2008. RSVP here


Monday, February 3, 2020: Tadashi Fukami, Associate Professor of Biology, "Reflections on Some of the Ethical Struggles of Being an Ecologist" 

Tadashi Fukami is Associate Professor of Biology at Stanford University. The main focus of his research is historical contingency in the assembly of ecological communities. We know that some communities develop toward a single final state regardless of community assembly history, with a deterministic composition of species that can be predicted from environmental conditions. However, the species membership and ecosystem functioning of some communities seem highly contingent on the history of species immigation. This contingency happens because the order and timing in which species immigrate determine the ways species affect one another in communities, the phenomenon known as priority effects. His work has found that priority effects could be strong enough to modify major patterns of biodiversity. His work involves a combination of observational, experimental, and theoretical methods applied to a variety of microbes, plants, and animals. He received his BA from Waseda University, a Masters degree from the University of Tokyo, and his PhD from the University of Tennessess, Knoxville. He joined the Stanford faculty in 2008. RSVP here


Additional talks are being scheduled for the 2019-20 academic year. Suggestions for future topics and speakers are welcome; please email Anne Newman.

Past Talks

Monday, October 8, 2018: Michael Frank, Associate Professor of Psychology, “Reproducibility and the ethics of data management”

Michael C. Frank is Associate Professor of psychology at Stanford University. After completing his Ph.D. from MIT in Brain and Cognitive Sciences in 2010, he joined the faculty at Stanford. He studies language use and language learning, and how these interact with social cognition, focusing especially on early childhood. He is the organizer of the ManyBabies Consortium, a collaborative-replication network for infancy research, and has led open-data projects including Wordbank and MetaLab. He has been recognized as a "rising star" by the Association for Psychological Science. His dissertation received the Glushko Prize from the Cognitive Science Society, and he is recipient of the FABBS Early Career Impact award and a Jacobs Advanced Research Fellowship. Frank has served as Associate Editor for the journal Cognition, member and chair of the Governing Board of the Cognitive Science Society, and was a founding executive committee member of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018: Angèle Christin, Assistant Professor of Communication, “Ethical dilemmas in ethnographic work about the effects of algorithms”
Angèle Christin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and an affiliated faculty member in the Sociology Department and Program in Science, Technology, and Society at Stanford University. She studies how algorithms and analytics transform professional values, expertise and work practices. Her book project focuses on the case of web journalism, analyzing the growing importance of audience metrics (clicks) in web newsrooms in the United States and France. Drawing on ethnographic methods, Christin examines how American and French journalists make sense of traffic numbers in different ways, which in turn has distinct effects on the production of news in the two countries. In a new project, she studies the construction, institutionalization and reception of predictive algorithms in the U.S. criminal justice system. She published two books to date: an ethnographic analysis of a criminal court in the outskirts of Paris (Emergency Hearings: An Inquiry on Judiciary Practice, La Découverte, 2008) and an examination of recent theoretical and methodological trends in sociological research in the United States (Contemporary Sociology in the United States, with E. Ollion, La Découverte, 2012). Christin also worked on a statistical study of music taste and cultural participation in the United States and France, funded by the French Ministry of Culture. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University and the EHESS (Paris) in 2014. She is an affiliate at the Data & Society Research Institute.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019: Jelena Obradović, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education, "Ethical dilemmas in studying resilience in vulnerable children"
Jelena Obradović is Associate Professor in the Developmental and Psychological Sciences program in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in psychophysiology at the University of British Columbia. Obradović is a recipient of an Early Career Research Contribution Award from the Society for Research in Child Development, a William T. Grant Foundation Scholar Award, and a Jacobs Foundation Advanced Research Fellowship. Together with her collaborators, Obradović studies processes that contribute to resilience in diverse groups of children, including immigrant youth, inner-city children from high-risk, low-income backgrounds, and children living in rural Pakistan. Her research examines how the interplay of children’s physiological stress arousal, self-regulatory skills, and the quality of caregiving environments contributes to children’s health, learning and well-being over time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019: Michael Bernstein, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, "Ethics in Mechanical Turk, the Gig Economy, and the Future of Work"
Michael Bernstein is Assistant Professor of computer science at Stanford University, where he is a member of the Human-Computer Interaction group. His research focuses on the design of crowdsourcing and social computing systems. His research has received numerous best paper awards at premier computing venues, and his Ph.D. students have gone on both to industry (e.g. Adobe Research, Facebook Data Science) and faculty positions (e.g. Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley). Bernstein has been recognized as a Robert N. Noyce Family Faculty Scholar, and has received an NSF CAREER award, an Outstanding Academic Title citation from the American Library Association, and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship. He holds a bachelor's degree in symbolic systems from Stanford University, and a master's and Ph.D. in computer science from MIT.

Monday, February 11, 2019: Mitchell Stevens, Associate Professor of Education, "Personalization, Prediction, Tracking: Parsing Responsible Use of Student Data in Higher Education"
Mitchell L. Stevens is Associate Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Organizational Behavior and Sociology at Stanford. He studies the organization of U.S. higher education, the quantification of academic performance, and alternative school forms. The author of prize-winning studies of home education and selective college admissions, he currently is writing a book about how U.S. research universities organize research and teaching about the rest of the world. He serves as the third Director of the Scandinavian Consortium for Organizational Research, a cooperative institution that has brought more than 500 scholars to Stanford over a quarter century and catalyzes organizational scholarship worldwide. Learn more about the responsible use of student data in higher education at

Monday, April 29, 2019: Katharine Mach, Senior Research Scientist, Earth System Science, "The ethics of creating actionable knowledge for the climate challenge"

Katharine Mach is a Senior Research Scientist at Stanford University, an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and a Visiting Investigator at the Carnegie Institution for Science. She leads the Stanford Environment Assessment Facility (SEAF). Advancing foundations for action, her research is focused on integrative assessment of climate change risks and response options. The goal is innovating and evaluating new approaches to assessment, simultaneously applying them to inform decisions and policy. Priorities include methods for integrating evidence, applying expert judgment, and communicating resulting syntheses of knowledge. From 2010 until 2015, Mach co-directed the scientific activities of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which focuses on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. This work culminated in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report and its Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. The associated global scientific collaborations have supported diverse climate policies and actions, including the Paris Agreement. Mach received her Ph.D. from Stanford and A.B. from Harvard College.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019: Matthew Clair, Assistant Professor of Sociology and (by courtesy) of Law, "Ethical dilemmas in studying race and class inequalities in the criminal justice system" 

Matthew Clair is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and (by courtesy) the Law School at Stanford. His research interests include law and society, race and ethnicity, cultural sociology, criminal justice, and qualitative methods. His in-progress book "Privilege and Punishment" shows how race and class inequalities in the criminal justice system are embedded in and reproduced through the attorney-client relationship. Drawing on in-depth ethnographic and interview data, his book shows how lawyers and judges often ignore, coerce and punish disadvantaged defendants who attempt to advocate for themselves in court — but reward privileged defendants who trust in and defer to their lawyers' legal expertise. These dynamics reveal a paradox of legal control: Striving to exercise one's legal rights often backfires for the poor and people of color. His research has been published in Criminology, Law & Social Inquiry, Social Science & Medicine, and Socio-Economic Review and has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the American Society of Criminology, the Center for American Political Studies, and the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management. He has received awards from the American Sociological Association, the American Society of Criminology, the Law & Society Association, and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. His research has contributed to policy reports on reducing racialized mass incarceration and improving the health of racial/ethnic minorities. In addition, he has written essays for various outlets, including Public Books and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He holds an A.B. in Government from Harvard College and an A.M. and Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019: Sharad Goel, Assistant Professor of Management Science and Engineering and (by courtesy) of Computer Science and of Law, "Ethical Dilemmas in Computational Public Policy Work" 

Sharad Goel is assistant professor at Stanford in the Department of Management Science & Engineering, in the School of Engineering. He also has courtesy appointments in Computer Science, Sociology, and the Law School. His primary area of research is computational social science, an emerging discipline at the intersection of computer science, statistics and the social sciences. He is the founder and executive director of the Stanford Computational Policy Lab, a team of researchers, data scientists and journalists that addresses policy problems through technical innovation. In collaboration with the Computational Journalism Lab, they created the Stanford Open Policing Project, a repository of data on over 100 million traffic stops across the United States. He's particularly interested in applying modern computational and statistical techniques to study social and political policies, such as stop-and-frisk, swing voting, filter bubbles, do-not-track, and media bias. Before joining Stanford, he was a senior researcher at Microsoft Research and Yahoo Labs. He studied at the University of Chicago (B.S. in mathematics) and at Cornell (M.S. in computer science; Ph.D. in applied mathematics).