Wait a minute - I should still be working but, I really felt the need to respond to these comments/post.
What should we be focusing upon?
I think Rob was in the right direction aimed at ethics, but the direction of the target was not correct. Sangji’s death was tragic and preventable. But, was Dr. Harran following the teaching, enforcing and compliance standards being followed at the time? Maybe he was, although not sufficient, I think they were and have been lacking for quite some time.
I think the accident history results must lead us to how could this have been prevented.
Yes, I googled the same terms as Rob and found the same article and I’ve been following this case and multiple other cases of laboratory accidents for years. I propose this is not a true root cause analysis of her safety accident.
Instead, maybe it is another all too often repeated example of the lack of applying basic core safety principals to the applications being performed.
Sangji was performing an experiment using a known pyrophoric without following adequate safety precautions.
I think it was on another safety list that we have had a very similar discussion regarding the “rainbow experiments and methanol.”
These examples are no different than what is sadly, still continuing. The root causes remain similar enough that they need to be mentioned – we are still not following basic safety procedures which respect the chemical and physical properties of the chemicals we are working with, regardless of the grade level, e.g., grad, undergrad or high school.
In both of the mentioned cases, the hazards were well known in advance, and with proper engineering controls, planning and precautions could have been performed successfully without injury. What was and still is missing?
Recognition of the hazards with the implementation of adequate controls. This is not only these cases, but many others as well, see http://www.csb.gov/csb-releases-new-video-on-laboratory-safety-at-academic-institutions/ and watch the full video. At another employer, I had reviewing this video incorporated into new-hire training. The lessons still need to be learned, implemented and enforced. When you lose respect for the physical or chemical properties of the chemicals you are working with, the hazards are all too often and tragically predictable.
I find it hard to believe that Sangji was unaware of the physical properties of what she was working with, from either Dr. Harran, the classroom, her education level or a simple MSDS.
But, what I can hypothesize is that she was “willing to accept the hazards” thinking that, based upon her understanding/level of training of those hazards, she could work with them safely.
Is this possibly where we may have failed and the ethics definitions can now come into play, e.g., virtue ethics vs. applied ethics, etc., the bottom line is that the precautions and training specified were inadequate. Where did the precautions fail?
I think we need to consider, was Dr. Harron following the training, practices, etc., that we had prescribed, at the time, assuming that they were adequate and relying upon our expertise? Where, exactly do our roles and expertise come into effect… and show an affect?
P.S. As a firm believer in free speech, I wish the author of the ChemBark directly (an unnamed source) would have engaged in an open dialogue of ideas. However, I do have serious concerns regarding his/her ethical safety concerns and comments, specifically “I have a lot of stuff to worry about, and ensuring the safety of my students cannot be allowed to get in the way of important things like finding consulting gigs, collecting awards, traveling to international conferences, and stealing ideas for grants” and “The most important aspect of the Harran deal is how it extends the long, proud tradition of excusing PIs of any professional responsibility for their work..” But let’s not forget, “Of course, I realize that there should be some consequences when something truly horrible happens. In these situations, professors must arrange for perfunctory punishments that allow all of the parties charged with oversight to save face.” Although I’m not quite convinced that these comments were made in jest or probably with a lot of tongue in cheek. I do take some comfort with one of the final comments of “At the very least, I can guarantee you that Sheri’s death has had an indelible, positive effect my approach to safety and how I manage my lab and students.” Finally… lesson learned. But, sadly… point made, what a tragedy. How about we prevent the next one?
P.S.S. May others learn more quickly without the costs. God Bless.
This is a shameful action and position by the AAAS.
David C. Finster
Professor, Department of Chemistry
University Chemical Hygiene Officer
Let me start by saying that AAAS is a tremendously respected organization, and I know many AAAS fellows personally, and they are all truly great scientists and accomplished people. But these statements here are BS:
Ginger Pinholster, AAAS director in the office of public programs, said the AAAS fellow selection process is based strictly on scientific achievement.
“(Selection as a fellow) doesn’t reflect behavior or other issues,” Pinholster said.
So scientific ethics are apparently meaningless. All those various folks who conducted research on prisoners or mentally disabled patients could have qualified and never realized it? If someone decides to breed a half-man half-ape, and the science produced and offspring, they should be rewarded? If the Tuskegee experiments had wiped syphilis out, AAAS would have been overjoyed? And what of personal ethics? If Bill Cosby were a AAAS fellow, would they join the dozens of other institutions that have revoked their honors awarded to him?
Further, the AAAS web site makes this clear it is NOT scientific achievement in the strictly laboratory/eureka sense, but in its the fellow's actions in promoting and advancing science. That means every action (behavior) they take related to science: MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from "urldefense.proofpoint.com" claiming to be http://www.aaas.org/general-process
A member whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished and who has been a continuous member for the four year period leading up to the year of nomination, may, by virtue of such meritorious contribution be elected a Fellow by the Council. Examples of areas in which nominees may have made significant contributions are research; teaching; technology; services to professional societies; administration in academe, industry, and government; and communicating and interpreting science to the public.
But then the real BS comes with this:
Pinholster added the AAAS administrative members who oversaw the selection process for the fellowship were unaware of the charges against Harran.
Wow, that must be a really rigorous selection process [generous dollop of dripping sarcasm]. Google the name and the #2 hit is titled "UCLA Professor Patrick Harran Strikes Deal with Prosecutors". 7 out of the top 10 hits relate to the UCLA incident and no doubt one of the others (Wikipedia) mentions it.
It's one thing to make the selection, but then, IMHO, to clearly lie about being "unaware" besmirches the character, integrity, and quality of not only the AAAS, but all of its previous and future fellows by association. There is absolutely no way that the selection committee could have been unaware of this issue. They are too smart not to have known.
Maybe they were simply being perverse here because one has to they recognize that Patrick Harran's actions in the Sangji case did indeed result in great strides and achievements in the area of laboratory safety….
By refusing to acknowledge or discuss the issue, the AAAS and their spokesperson are doing the scientific community a great disservice. Clearly, their committee must have made an argument that the UCLA incident did not (sufficiently?) overshadow his consideration, so let's hear why.
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