Collegiate Institute for Values and Science (University of Michigan) records, 1974-1990
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research.
- University of Michigan. Collegiate Institute for Values and Science.
- Collected material relating to the debate over the University of Michigan's participation in genetic research, mainly recombinant DNA, and broader issues of ethics and values in scientific research.
- 8.5 linear feet
- Call Number:
- 87115 Bimu C560 2
- Finding aid created by Gael Graham, 1984 Sondra Smith, 1996
- Scope and Content:
The records of the Collegiate Institute for Values and Science document the activities and programs of the institute and several campus issues involving ethics and scientific research, most notably the debate over research on Recombinant DNA in the 1970s. The records are organized into four series; Recombinant DNA Controversy, Topical File Audiotapes and Alan Price records.
- Biographical / Historical:
The Collegiate Institute for Values and Science (CIVS) was founded in the 1976/77 academic year for the purpose of facilitating discussions among scholars regarding scientific research and values. With the encouragement of Billy Frye, Dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, and with funds earmarked for interdisciplinary programs, the Institute shaped into a monthly faculty seminar under the direction of faculty members Eric Rabkin, Nick Steneck, and Gordon Kane, with assistance from Roy (Skip) Rappaport.
CIVS initially concerned itself with the debate over research on recombinant DNA, which took place at the University of Michigan as well as on the national level, primarily during the years 1975-1978. The newly developed ability of scientists to manipulate the genetic code sparked sharp debates all across the nation, both within the scientific community and among non-scientists. As a major research institution the University of Michigan, along with Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was deeply involved with the controversy over DNA. The debate centered on three main issues. The first was the conflict between freedom of scientific inquiry and a more cautious approach to genetic research. In this context, the lessons derived from atomic fission and the development of nuclear weapons were recurring themes.
A second issue concerned the means of deciding whether or not to proceed with the research: cost-benefit analysis versus ethics. Some people argued that cost-benefit analysis was appropriate for immediate problems but was useless in determining the costs and benefits of long-range plans, such as DNA research.
Underlying the debate was a third issue: that of presumably ignorant public control as opposed to expert, scientific self-regulation. This issue is symptomatic of the ever-increasing gap in understanding between scientists and lay people. Again, both sides referred back to the development of atomic weapons: the public asserting its right to know what scientists were doing and to restrict or control their work, and the scientists insisting that they were the group best fitted to understand the ramifications of their work and to formulate the appropriate controls.
The specific fears aroused by DNA research were first, that the technology of genetic engineering might fall into the wrong hands, and second, that bacteria created in the laboratory might accidentally escape and cause massive epidemics. In general, the public voiced the first concern; and scientists, who were more familiar with the nature of the research, emphasized the second.
At the University of Michigan, the debate originated in 1975 with a request to the Regents to build three "moderate risk containment facilities" for DNA research. The discussion was largely carried on within three committees, "A," "B," and "C," although there was also a great deal of public discussion of the issue. Committee "A" operated under the assumption DNA research would continue, and it therefore concerned itself with the renovation of laboratories for this purpose. Its proposals were submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in hopes of receiving grant money.
Committee "B" represented a broad spectrum of university departments, with an emphasis on the humanities and social sciences. The purpose of the Committee was to deal with the social, ethical, and legal consequences of DNA research. The Committee took the position that some work was too hazardous to be continued at all, while other work was necessary for the solution of immediate problems which could not be solved by other methods. This work was to be carried out in accordance with the guidelines established by the NIH. Committee "B" recommended that another committee be formed to review the work being done and to decide, on the basis of the NIH guidelines, whether to authorize further research. This committee was to include at least one scientist not involved in DNA research, and a nonscientist.
In the spring of 1976, the Regents voted to approve the building of moderate-risk facilities. At the same time, they adopted some of the restrictions urged by Committee "B," notably the continuation of the existing Committee "C," or the Biological Research Review Committee. Committee "C" functioned as the "watchdog" proposed by Committee "B," by monitoring the research being done in the new laboratories.
At the national level, the primary issue was the development of legislation that would allow the research to continue while simultaneously protecting the public. Several people from the University of Michigan went to Washington to testify before the House Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology.
Between the years 1978 and 1990, the CIVS expanded its scope from concentrating mainly on the recombinant DNA debate to considering a wide variety of issues relating to science, research, values, and education. It also acquired a more formal structure and function. Two directors, Eric Rabkin (1978-1982) and Nicholas Steneck (1982-1990), and an Executive Committee provided the leadership for the institute during the decade. Membership of the organization included Fellows and Associates. Respected scholars pursuing research and interested in discussing value issues raised by their disciplines were invited to become Fellows; other persons who desired to participate in CIVS activities were named Associates.
The Institute held monthly dinner meetings, frequently with guest speakers, to discuss value issues (particularly those that involved science) and also hosted conferences and colloquia. An additional emphasis on teaching led to the development of undergraduate and graduate ethics courses and the sponsorship of an Elder Hostel group. Funding from various university and non-university sources enabled the organization to award summer research grants to applicants and to support such values-related projects as the student-run magazine Consider. Parallel to these activities initiated by CIVS, the Director also assumed additional responsibilities, "usually in response to requests for the services of someone who can bridge the gap between the sciences and the humanities" (First Annual Report, page 4). Thus, the Institute became directly involved with related groups such as the Integrity of Scholarship Task Force and the Academic Freedom and Academic Responsibility project.
CIVS came to an end in 1990 when Steneck became Director of the Historical Center and administrative interests turned to other projects.
Directors of the Collegiate Institute for Values and Science Date Event 1975-1978 Let by committee, including Eric Rabkin, Nicholas Steneck, and Gordon Kane, with assistance from Roy (Skip) Rappaport 1978-1982 Eric Rabkin 1982-1990 Nicholas Steneck
- Acquisition Information:
- The papers (Donor No. 7042 ) were donated in two accessions by Professor Nick Steneck. The third accession was part of a transfer of miscellaneous records from the Detroit Observatory (Donor No. 5123 ).
Periodic additions to the records expected.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Using These Materials
The collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
[item], folder, box, Collegiate Institute for Values and Science (University of Michigan) records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan