This investigative case module was prepared as part of a BioQUEST faculty development workshop entitled Faculty Workshop: Implementing Investigative Cases and Technology in Biology and Chemistry at Center for Science Education in August 2004. The cases, resources, and implementation strategies were developed by participants for use with their own students. We invite you to adopt and adapt the following materials.

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is committed to the reform of undergraduate biology instruction through an emphasis on engaging students in realistic scientific practices. This approach is sometimes characterized as an inquiry driven approach and is captured in BioQUEST's three P's (problem-posing, problem-solving, and peer-persuasion). As part of this workshop groups of faculty were encouraged to initiate innovative curricular projects. We are sharing these works in progress in the hope that they will stimulate further exploration, collaboration and development. Please see the following links for additional information:

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Investigative Cases
The Case: Blood Money

Dr. Samuel Shreveport, a funding officer for a private organization, has just been diagnosed with a rare blood disease called thalassemia. He has told no one at work about his illness, which is life-threatening. Dr. Shreveport has just celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife Sharon, and they have three children, ages 12, 16, and 21. The youngest child is also affected by thalassemia.

Dr. Shreveport has just been promoted to chair of the grant committee for the funding organization. This position requires him to be unbiased, and he has the final decision about which proposals receive funding in the event of a tie.

Study section, the time when all grants are reviewed, is scheduled for next week. Dr. Shreveport realizes that one of the grant proposals in the application pool proposes Stage III clinical trials on human subjects for thalassemia and utilizes holistic medicine.

At the end of the session, money remains to fund only one grant proposal. The two in question are the experimental study or a grant proposing new techniques for identifying bacteria that can be used as biological terrorist agents. There are an even number of votes for each, and Dr. Shreveport must decide which of the two projects will receive funding.

The final decision must be announced tomorrow. At home this evening, Dr. Shreveport has been having a conversation with his wife about the projects. She gets excited when he tells her about the clinical trials proposal. Once he sees her excitement, he realizes he may have made a mistake in talking to her about it. Now he is faced with a dilemma.

Should Dr. Shreveport fund the project that may cure the rare blood disease or the project which could protect against bioweapons?

Normal red blood cell

Red blood cell of a person affected by thalassemia

Bacillus anthracis

Case Author:
Sonya Greene Emory University:Center for Science Education
Brooke Bourdelat-Parks Emory University:Center for Science Education

Case Analysis

Conflict of interest
Responsible research practices
Ethical decisions based on circumstance
Biological agents used as bioweapons

Option: Include a know / need to know chart like the one below:

What do you know?
What do you need to know?

Learning Goals


The students should gain an understanding of appropriate research conduct.

Students should demonstrate the process required to craft an ethical argument.

The students will also acquire the skills necessary to effectively present and communicate ideas.



Investigations and Activities

Individual investigations
Complete a worksheet on Biomedical Research Ethics where students choose whether research practices are ethical and write an explanation for those that are not (see special data items).

Write a one to two page commentary expressing which proposal Dr. Shreveport should fund. Use ethical theories, principles, and methods to support your view.

Write an information sheet on the responsible research practices used in the investigation of one of the two topics presented in the case (thalassemia or bioweapons).

Group investigations
Full class discussion addressing the ethics of the case, including conflict of interest and confidentiality.

Four person groups will be assigned one of the two proposals. Students will do independent research to find reasons why their proposal should be funded and reasons the other proposal should not be funded. Each group will present the advantages and disadvantages in front of the class and turn in one written summary per group. Dr. Shreveport (class instructors) will make the final decision about which proposal to fund based on the persuasiveness of the presentations.



Beginning Bioethics: A text with integrated readings. Aaron Ridley. St. Martin's Press, Inc. 1988.

Cases in Bioethics: Selections from the Hastings Center Report, 3rd edition.Bette-Jane Crigger. St. Martin's Press, Inc. 1998.

On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research

Students will usually obtain additional references or resources
to help answer or explore their questions.

Special Data Items

1. Biomedical Research Ethics worksheet.doc
2. Anthracis.jpg
3. Thalassemia.gif
4. Normal.gif


Student Products

Completed worksheet on Biomedical Research Ethics

One to two page commentary on which proposal Dr. Shreveport should fund

Summary of advantages and disadvantages from group presentation

An information sheet on responsible research conduct practices that are used to investigate one of the two topics in the case (thalassemia or bioweapons)

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

Group discussion, worksheet, and information sheet will assess knowledge of ethical research practices.

Commentary on which project to fund will address how to construct an ethical argument.

Group presentations will allow students to practice effective presentation and communication skills.

The information sheet will also allow students to learn detailed information about research practices applicable to health sciences.



Course name:
Likely sequence in syllabus:
Responsible research conduct/ biomedical ethics
Time during term:
Third major topic after introduction and death / dying
2 days in class plus homework assignment over weekend
Students in course:
25 - 30 juniors and seniors interested in the health professions
Collaborative elements:
Additional notes:



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