Towards the Greater Good: the 2016 UBRP Ethics Retreat

Picture of students in discussionThe Ethics retreat offered through the UBRP program to members of UBRP was an unforgettable experience for all. The experience allowed undergraduate researchers to discuss with experienced scientists and health care professionals the merits of research, and most importantly, the standards that should be drawn in recognition of the fine line that stands for what can be morally acceptable and what should not be condoned. To help provide a better picture of the issues that arise in these debates, Dr. Henry Johnson and Professors Margaret Briehl, Walt Klimecki, and Angel Pimentel gave us their time and experience to understand, more tangibly, true problems that can arise when research is being conducted.

PIcture of Biosphere 2 rainforestWhen asked about her impression of the Ethics retreat, undergraduate researcher Dana Woods noted that it was “fitting that the retreat was in a place that focused on research.” This place being the renowned Biosphere 2 which today is maintained by the University of Arizona and serves as a focal point internationally how different ecosystems function on earth. A point that my fellow retreat participant brought up to me, that I truly think was one of the biggest points in making the retreat a success was, as she put it, “…every group I ended up being a part of was unique. Each person brings something different to the table and I noticed that, even if I was in a group with the same person before, the other people in our group were not the same, which changed the overall conclusions of our group. Having different people surrounding you gives you different insights to the task at hand.”

Picture of students in group discussionThe willingness of fellow retreat-goers to engage in discussion of topics raised brought deeper, more insightful thinking to the table. Not something typically seen, or able to be seen in a regulation lab preparation course. Furthermore, the genuine interest from our guest lecturers, UBRP director and retreat coordinator, Carol Bender and, UBRP assistant director, Jennifer Cubeta and the time they took to spark conversation with us considering ethics and our interest in research outside of our marked lectures, added depth to the lectures we participated in.

IMG_5561And the final impression when all was said and done? Student Ashlee Irving notes, “ I do have a lot of work to improve but this experience has definitely motivated me to become a better student. Carol, Jennifer, Margaret, Angel, Walt and Henry have encouraged us all to become better students and to have a great summer with our research.”

I couldn’t agree with Ashlee more. As a first time, UBRP student, through the NSCS program, there’s something to be said about having a clearer understanding of not only how the research I will be participating in benefits people, but how years of trial, error, and recognition of the value of human life has turned contemporary research into much safer, ethical practices.

Group picture of Ethics Retreat participants