Authors: Dena Plemmons and Michael Kalichman, 2008

One of the challenges for teachers is to fully engage their students. To meet that goal, research ethics dilemmas can be made more compelling if the scenarios are presented in the form of video. In this context, video is meant to include:

  • Full length movies
  • TV shows
  • Custom presentations designed to address research ethics topics (e.g., whistleblowing, mentoring, authorship disputes)*
With the ready availability of many movies on video, and the high interest in newly released movies, teachers of research ethics have many opportunities to raise issues such as the portrayal of scientists in popular media, the role of whistleblowers, or protections of the interests of human subjects.

Video can be used in many ways, for example:
  • Short video (5-10 mins) presented in class and followed by discussion.
  • 3-hour session devoted to showing a movie in its entirety followed by discussion.
  • In class discussion of selected parts of very well-known movies.
  • Students assigned to view a video or movie currently showing; hold discussion during following class meeting.
  • Student groups assigned to write scripts and create videos for presentation to the rest of the course; following showing of each video, group members responsible for leading a discussion of the case presented in the video.

* Because many videos specially made to address research ethics toics may fall short of the highest production standards, it is valuable to preface discussion by pointing out the need to look past the flaws in production and to focus on ethical dilemmas and possible solutions.

Selected Research Ethics Videos

  • In The Lab: Mentors and Students Behind the Scenes, University of Alabama Birmingham.
    Information available online at:
  • Scientific Integrity Videos, American Association for the Advancement of Science
    Five short videos illustrating ethical dilemmas in the context of biomedical research labs.
    Information available online at:

Selected Movies

  • Arrowsmith
  • Blade Runner
  • Brazil
  • Charlie
  • The China Syndrome
  • Extreme Measures
  • Frankenstein: The True Story
  • The Fugitive
  • The Lawnmower Man
  • Lorenzo's Oil
  • My Fair Lady
  • Silkwood
  • Wit

Selected Documentaries

Selected TV Movies and Episodes

  • Brave New World (90's made-for-Television version)
  • Dateline (9/20/02) film on Jessie Gelsinger
  • Nothing Human (Star Trek Voyager episode, analogy to Nazi Research)
  • NOVA and Frontline shows that highlight ethical issues (e.g., Making Babies and Sixteen ways to Make a Baby)

Selected Movies with General Ethics Themes

  • A Dangerous Woman
  • Erin Brockovich
  • Gentlemen's Agreement
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Insider
  • Glengarry Glen Ross
  • A Man for All Seasons
  • Mississippi Burning
  • Moonstruck
  • Our Mutual Friend
  • Paradise Road
  • Serpico
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • The White Rose
  • The Winslow Boy
  • Twelve Angry Men

Selected Video Websites