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JHU Exploration of Practical Ethics Round 2 Awardees

The Law of Unintended Consequences: Will the Implementation of California Senate Bill 27 Impact Animal Health and Well-Being?

Co-Principal Investigators

Meghan F. Davis, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Health & Engineering, Bloomberg School of Public Health and Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, School of Medicine

Jessica Fanzo, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Ethics and Global Food & Agriculture, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies; Berman Institute of Bioethics; Bloomberg School of Public Health


Christopher Heaney, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Health & Engineering, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Keeve Nachman, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Health & Engineering; Director, Food Production & Public Health Program, Center for a Livable Future, Bloomberg School of Public Health; Co-Director, Risk Sciences and Public Policy Institute

Sara Y. Tartof, Research Scientist, Kaiser Permanente Southern California

Joan Casey, Postdoctoral Scholar, Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley

Narrative: We propose to analyze the ethical trade-offs between a California state legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 27, that limits antibiotic uses in food-producing animals to benefit public health and the potential costs from this legislation in terms of animal health and welfare. This policy will go into effect on January 1, 2018, allowing us to leverage the natural experiment to determine shifts that occur around the time of policy implementation. We will interview poultry and dairy farmers and other stakeholders, we will evaluate animal health and welfare outcomes, and we will conduct an ethical analysis to examine the trade-offs. To aid in the development of future policies, we will recommend mitigation strategies and produce ethical checklists as tools for decision-makers.

Ethical Robotics: Implementing Value-Driven Behavior in Autonomous Systems

Co-Principal Investigators

David Handelman, Senior Roboticist, Applied Physics Laboratory

Ariel Greenberg, Senior Research Scientist, Applied Physics Laboratory

Bruce Swett, Senior Neuroscience Researcher, Applied Physics Laboratory


Debra Mathews, Assistant Director of Science Programs, Berman Institute of Bioethics; Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine

Travis Rieder, Research Scholar and Assistant Director for Education Initiatives, Berman Institute of Bioethics

Narrative: Robots will soon pervade our daily lives as surrogates, assistants, and companions. As we grant them greater autonomy, it is imperative that they are endowed with ethical reasoning commensurate with their ability to both benefit and harm humanity. In 1942, Isaac Asimov stipulated his Three Laws of Robotics to govern robot behavior. Implementing such laws requires an actionable value system that can be analyzed, judged and modified by humans. The proposed project brings together ethics and robotics experts from the JHU Berman Institute of Bioethics and JHU/APL to (1) develop an ethical framework for robots, (2) implement the framework by extending existing robot capabilities, and (3) assess the framework’s impact on robot behavior using JHU/APL’s Robo Sally, a hyper-dexterous robot with Modular Prosthetic Limbs and human-like manipulation capabilities. The goal is to derive design guidelines and best practices to implement practical ethics in next-generation robotic systems.

Are We Asking the Right Questions about the Ethics of Autonomous Vehicle Testing?

Co-Principal Investigators

Johnathon Ehsani, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy & Management, Center for Injury Research & Policy, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Tak Igusa, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Whiting School of Engineering


Govind Persad, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy & Management, Bloomberg School of Public Health; Berman Institute of Bioethics

Narrative: The current development of autonomous vehicles (AVs) appears to be leading us to a wonderful future of effortless mobility. But what if there are unanticipated, negative consequences? We believe that a wait-and-see approach is irresponsible, especially since some consequences can be irreversible. We are particularly concerned about pathways of testing and deployment of AVs that could lead to widening disparities and a declining quality of life for certain segments of society. In our proposed work, we will begin with a systematic exploration of possible negative outcomes and will engage multiple stakeholders, including those who may be most impacted by these outcomes. We then develop recommendations for the sponsors and implementers of AV trials (testing programs) that would enable stakeholders to voice their concerns and influence the design of these trials. With these research experiences, we will be well positioned for future work in dissemination and implementation of our recommendations.

Housing Our Story: Towards Archival Justice for Black Baltimore

Co-Principal Investigators

Jennifer P. Kingsley, Senior Lecturer and Assistant Director, Program in Museums and Society, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

Shani Mott, Lecturer, Center for Africana Studies, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

N.D.B. Connolly, Herbert Baxter Adams Associate Professor, Department of History, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

Narrative: “Housing Our Story” engages in the practical ethics of building an archive about African-American staff and contract workers at the Johns Hopkins University. Even with many librarians making new commitments to diversity and social responsibility, few have considered the ethical imperatives raised by structural racism, archival silences, and failed efforts to resist erasure on the part of marginal populations. While archivists nobly aim to preserve the memory of the world, they often, in practice, institutionalize the choices of the powerful. Archivists and their benefactors get to determine what belongs in special collections, where to locate archives, how to organize them, and even what counts as an archival source. Because archivists have their own biases and have to deal with the realities of a given institution’s capacities, their choices ultimately result in silences, silences that, not infrequently, infringe on black people’s ability to form social memory and history. We aim to redress this problem.

The Ethics of Preparedness in Humanitarian Disasters

Principal Investigator:

Sarah E. Parkinson, Aronson  Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and Nitze School of Advanced International Studies


Valerie De Koeijer, Graduate Student, Department of Political Science, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

Narrative: What are the “everyday” ethical issues that affect war-adjacent professionals such as humanitarians, journalists, and scholars on the ground? How do individuals in these fields resolve them? We examine: 1.) The training that professionals such as researchers, journalists, and humanitarians working adjacent to war receive; 2.) How these individuals’ understandings of professional conduct interact with local populations’ concepts of ethical and moral behavior; and 3) How professionals’ protocols and practices subsequently evolve—or do not—in the field. Focusing on the humanitarian crises that conflicts in Syria and Iraq have produced, this project uses multi-sited, immersive fieldwork with foreign and local professionals in Iraqi Kurdistan and Lesvos, Greece to identify communities of practice, indigenous innovations, and emergent ethical tensions. Subsequent workshops in each field site bring together scholars, practitioners, and community representatives, to identify key ethical issues and discuss potential cross-field policy interventions.

Determining the Number of Refugees to be Resettled in the United States: An Ethical and Human Rights Analysis

Principal Investigator:

Leonard Rubenstein, Senior Scientist, Department of Epidemiology, Bloomberg School of Public Health; Berman Institute of Bioethics


Govind Persad, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy & Management, Bloomberg School of Public Health; Berman Institute of Bioethics

Daniel Serwer, Professor, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies

Paul Spiegel, Professor of the Practice, Department of International Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health; Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health

Rachel Fabi, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, SUNY Upstate Medical University

Narrative: The controversial Executive Orders by President Donald Trump on travel bans and refugees, which reduce by half the number of refugees proposed to be admitted in 2017 as compared to the Obama Administration’s determination, raise policy and ethical questions about the criteria used to determine the number of refugees admitted to the United States. This project will undertake a literature review related to ethics, human rights, policy, and refugee

resettlement; conduct qualitative interviews with key informants; identify relevant ethics and human rights frameworks relevant to the question; and seek to create a framework to help guide decisions on the number of refugees to be resettled. We plan to seek feedback on our proposals and then publish them and make recommendations to policy-makers and the public based on our analysis.

Conducting Research on Commercially-Owned Online Spaces

Principal Investigator:

Katherine Clegg Smith, Professor, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health


Joanna Cohen, Bloomberg Professor of Disease Prevention and Director of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Meghan Moran, Assistant Professor, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Mark Dredze, Associate Professor, Computer Science, Whiting School of Engineering

Errol L. Fields, Assistant Professor, Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine

Caitlin Weiger, PhD Student, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Narrative: People are increasingly spending time in online spaces that are created by commercial interests (e.g. retail sites, brand specific web pages, commercially-owned social spaces). It is critical to understand the potential impact of such spaces on the people who enter them and engage in activity within. Online spaces created by commercial entities are often restricted to certain types of people for specific purposes that are in line with the interests of the entity who created the space rather than the public good. Such restrictions potentially preclude important research that is routine within ‘real world’ commercial spaces for the promotion and protection of public health. In this proposal, we seek to understand and elucidate right and wrong action in relation to research on consequential, commercially-owned online spaces to which entry for research purposes is currently frequently prohibited through the existence of terms and conditions that preclude such action.


Event Specialist, JHU Exploration of Practical Ethics:  Suzanne Knizner, Berman Institute of Bioethics

Program Officer, JHU Exploration of Practical Ethics: Maria Merritt, PhD, Core Faculty, Berman Institute of Bioethics; Associate Professor, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health