CPBS 7605:
Ethics for Bioinformatics

Thursdays 10:30am-noon, September 5 - Nov 21
RC-1 South Tower, Room P18-7109

Prof. Larry Hunter
Office: RC-1 S. Room L18-6100  
Phone: 303-724-3574  
E-mail: Larry.Hunter@CUAnschutz.edu  
Office hours by appointment  

Prof. Marilyn Coors  
Office: Fulginiti Pavillion, Rm 205  
Phone: 303-724-3993  
E-mail: marilyn.coors@CUAnschutz.edu
Office hours by appointment

Course description

The course will familiarize students with the ethical underpinnings of bioinformatics research. By the end of the course, students will have a vocabulary and framework by which to recognize, discuss and responsibly address ethics in computational biology research. This course is central to the educational mission of our Computational Bioscience PhD program.

Goals for the course: The course will familiarize students with the bright lines (that ought not to be crossed in the course of research), the big picture (that conceptualizes bioinformatics research in the wider world), and the deep questions (that our research activities could address). Specific learning objectives include:

  1. Become familiar with the major codes of ethics governing research in computational biology, and be cognizant of examples of major lapses in biomedical research ethics.
  2. Understand the broad national, international and social values that drive computational biology research priorities and activities.
  3. Explore some of the major questions in ethics and values generated by contemporary biomedical research with particular emphasis on those relevant to computational biology, such as the protection of privacy.
  4. Gain experience applying ethical principles, concepts and values to the conduct of research, particularly in computational biology and biomedical informatics.
  5. Create a strong foundation for one's own ethical behavior throughout a career.

This isn't a lecture course. Each of 90 minute session will involve the students directly in discussions, role-playing exercises and other active learning approaches. Students will also be involved in selecting the topics covered and the methods by which we investigate them.

Each student is expected to create an ethics notebook (like a lab notebook), reflecting their reading, writing and thinking on ethical topics. The goal is for these portfolios to both allow the teachers to assess the students' work and to provide a vehicle to organize the student's ongoing ethical development. We hope you decide to continue to keep an ethics notebook your entire career.

In addition to attending these face-to-face course meetings, you are required to complete the online education in the responsible conduct of research for biomedicine (full course) through Canvas (detailed directions).



  • First class is September 5.


This tentative syllabus may evolve as the course progresses. Follow the links for each meeting to find activities, readings, etc..

Sept 5
Introduction: Weaving ethics into your life as a researcher; the scientist's role.
Sept 12 (MC only)
Basic Principles of Bioethics. Reading: Belmont Report
Sept 19 (LH only)
How research priorities are set: the roles of scientific, political and industrial actors
Sept 26
Handling Authorship disputes. What are the standards? Where do problems arise, and how to deal with them.
Oct 3 (LH only)
Ethical issues in data science & machine learning
Oct 10 (LH only>
Debate on ethical issues in data science and machine learning
Oct 17
Race, gender and discrimination in science
Oct 24
Discussion on race, gender and discrimination in science
Oct 31
Using computation to solve bioethical problems
Nov 7 (MC only)
Ethical issues in biobanking and genomics
Nov 14
Experience of being in a lab where misconduct happened (Mary Allen)
Nov 21
Topic to be decided by students


Honor Code

The Graduate School requires that this honor code be included in all course syllabi.

Education at the Health Sciences Center is conducted under the honor system. All students who have entered health professional programs should have developed the qualities of honesty and integrity, and each student should apply these principles to his or her academic and subsequent professional career. All students are also expected to have achieved a level of maturity, which is reflected by appropriate conduct at all times.

Note that our educational mission statement includes even stronger goals for your professional behavior. Please feel free to raise issues related to those goals in class.

Computational Bioscience Program home page | Professor Hunter's home page