BIOET 533: Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems
This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document or by clicking on any of the links below to “jump” to a specific section.
- Course Overview
- Required Course Materials
- What Will Be Expected of You?
- Assignments and Grading
- Course Schedule
- Course Policies
- Technical Requirements
Dr. Erich W. Schienke: Lecturer, John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering, and Sustainability Management and Policy Option Leader in the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (Online Masters and Graduate Certificates Program); and Ethics Co-Leader for the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, The Pennsylvania State University. He is the author and instructor of BIOET 533.
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Description: Ethical Demensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems
What is BIOET 533?
This course presents an examination of ethical issues relevant to systems-based research procedures, professional conduct; social and environmental impacts, and embedded ethics in research and professional practice in RESS based jobs. The course is comprised of 8 lessons divided into 7 modules and a final project. Lessons 1 and 2 provide a conceptual basis for engaging systems and professional ethics. Lessons 3 through 7 are case studies of ethical issues that can arise when engaging renewable energy and sustainability systems. Your final project will be to develop an ethics case study based on your area of RESS interests. The goals of the course are to provide you with tools for analyzing the ethical issues both in the line of professional duties as well as in consideration of the various ethical issues that face an entire sector of renewable energy and that underpin the very reasons for taking a sustainable and renewable approach.
Like other courses in our online programs, BIOET 533 is a "paced" course. "Paced" means that the course has a start date, an end date, and a weekly schedule of activities and assignments. However, students are free to study at times most convenient to them; you never have to log in at a particular time or place. The course lasts fourteen weeks, plus an additional week for orientation prior to the official start date of the course. Assignment due dates are posted in a course calendar which students access in the University's online course management system, Canvas (canvas.psu.edu). See the "Assignments" section of this syllabus for more information.
Along with the course calendar, registered students will find online assignments, a gradebook, communications tools and other useful features in Canvas. For more information about the course environment, see the "Course Management System" section of the course Orientation.
Although the class never meets face to face, you will find that there are plenty of opportunities to interact with instructors and fellow students in Canvas and even in the course text. One of the most interesting aspects of the class is that students tend to have a lot of professional experience to share. See the "Communication" section of the course Orientation to review all the ways in which you can get, and stay, in touch. Whether you have a question or a comment, you can expect to receive a reply from instructors or fellow students within 24 hours -- often sooner.
What will be expected of you?
Most students report that they devote eight to twelve hours per week working on course activities and assignments. Your workload may be more or less depending on your prior experience with computing and the Web in general, with nonmarket analysis, and with reading pace.
My colleagues and I have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. The World Campus is a novel learning environment, but in one sense it is no different than a traditional college class: how much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule, and if you take advantage of opportunities to communicate with instructors and fellow students.
The overall goals of BIOET 533 are to enable students to:
- Demonstrate comprehension of concepts and apply methods for revealing ethical issues to relevant stakeholders;
- Locate and interpret scholarly and professional ethical responsibilities; and
- Give reasons for various ethical standpoints in a renewable energy and/or sustainability project.
The particular objectives of each lesson and project assignment are outlined below.
Lesson 1: The Ethical Dimensions of Systems
- Distinguish between three main (meta) categories of ethical issues applied in this course, i.e. Research Integrity; Broader Impacts; and Embedded Ethics.
- Define and apply the concepts of each of the three main ethical areas; and,
- Locate resources for learning more about possible ethical issues.
Lesson 2: Responsible Conduct of Research and Professional Practices
- Knowledge building and comprehension of research integrity principles;
- Define and give examples of professional responsibilities;
- Make and defend claims about the treatment of stakeholders; and,
- Give reasons for why credit (mainly as authorship) should or should not be shared, and if so, how it should be shared.
Lesson 3: Renewable Energy and Climate Change
- Articulate the relationship between climate change and the drive for renewable energy;
- Explain environmental arguments for the move to renewable energy;
- Identify ethical reasons for considering renewables; and,
- Identify ethical challenges to adopting renewables in a given situation.
Lesson 4: Biofuels
- Recognize why biofuels are of interest;
- Categorize ttypes of plants used for biofuels;
- Be informed about the basic science behind biofuel production;
- Identify and describe various parts of life-cycle assessments (LCA) and to identify biofuels-specific pieces of LCA; and,
- Identify and reason through ethical issues in the production of bioethanol.
Lesson 5: Solar Energy from Photovoltaics
- Comprehend the scope of the science behind PV systems;
- Describe and Classify various parts of life-cycle assessments;
- Differentiate between and ethical reasons for Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) compared to Life-Cycle Cost Assessments (LCCA);
- Recognize where in the LCA process ethical considerations can be included, such as in choosing goals and scope; and,
- Identify and categorize key ethical issues in the analysis of material flows for PV.
Lesson 6: Drilling Impacts of Shale Gas
- Identify the stakeholders in hydraulic fracturing;
- Describe and categorize the possible ethical issues that emerge in the use of scientific and engineering research on hydraulic fracturing;
- Analyze the potential ethical issues around transparency of reporting, hydraulic fluid contents, and the projected certainty around well leakages;
- Categorize and justify the potential ethical issues as Research Integrity, Broader Impacts, or Embedded Ethics;
- Advanced Option - Level 1: Describe how groundwater is sampled and how, depending on which of the sampling methods are applied can possibly change the understanding of the risks associated with methane leakages; and,
- Advanced Option - Level 2: Define what the term "appropriate" means in the discussion of Appropriate Wastewater Management Options.
Lesson 7: Sustainability Systems Indicators
- Provide the main ethical principles underpinning sustainability;
- Define what a sustainability indicator is;
- Identify the ethical issues for various stakeholders in arriving at sustainability indicators; and,
- Analyze for the ethical dimensions of sustainability indicators.
Final Case: Ethical Analysis of a RESS Project/Topic of Your Choice
- Identify an ethical issue of significant/useful importance towards your goals in the RESS program. (This means, pick a topic in the area that can help to inform your work–the topic choice ought to benefit you.)
- Implement your own ethical analysis of your chosen topic or specific issue using the analytical methods developed through the course.
- Analyze for possible outcomes and prescribe possible ways to develop resolutions to some of the issues you identify.
Required Course Materials
To participate in BIOET 533 you need access to the Internet, the course texts, and access to Penn State's course management system, Canvas. There are no require texts you will need to purchase for this course. Access to Canvas (and to course instructors) requires a Penn State computing account, which registered students acquire by paying an annual technology fee. No additional materials or proprietary software or data are required for BIOET 533.
For more information about how to register for BIOET 533, contact the World Campus' Adult Learner Enrollment Services at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 1-800-252-3592 in the US (or internationally at 814-865-5403, country code 1).
All other materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website and in Canvas. In order to access all materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources). If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the ITS Help Desk .
Using the Library
Just like on-campus students, as a Penn State student, you have a wealth of library resources available to you!
As a registered user of Penn State Libraries, you can...
- search for journal articles (many are even immediately available in full-text);
- request articles that aren't available in full-text and have them delivered electronically;
- borrow books and other materials and have them delivered to your doorstep;
- access materials that your instructor has put on Electronic Reserve;
- talk to reference librarians in real time using chat, phone, and e-mail;
- ...and much more!
To register with the Libraries, and to learn more about their services, see the Library Information for Off-Campus Users .
Weekly Assignments and Grading
- 6 Lesson Assignments, accounting for 60% of your grade (60 pts / 10 pts each assignment)
You will have assignments based on the principles being covered in the readings for that lesson. For these lessons, and in general, questions and discussions about that lesson's reading ought to be completed before you begin the assignment. (Though, it is good to look through the assignment before engaging the reading) The assignments are intended to introduce you to both conceptual and methodological materials, and each week you will have a unique template to complete and upload to the relevant Assignments folder in Canvas.
You will be graded on how robustly you engage with each assignment. Each assignment is worth up to 10 points. An “anemic” assignment in which little work or reflection is being done will receive 1-6 points. An “acceptable” assignment is one that meets the minimum requirements of the tasks will receive 7-8 points. A “robust” assignment is one that goes beyond the minimum requirements of the assignment and demonstrates a deeper engagement with the materials; it will receive 9-10 points. I will give 1 point extra credit for assignments that communicate something exceptional. You can get up to 3 extra credit points, for a total of 63pts, during the term for this collections of assignments.
Students who are diligent about reading the website and texts are likely to perform well on the assignments. Your performance on these assignments will account for thirty percent of your final course grade. Due dates for graded quizzes appear under the Calendar tab in Canvas.
- 1 SARI (Scholarship and Research Integrity) CITI Based RCR Training Module Completion, accounting for 10% of your grade, but completion is mandatory for course completion (10 pts)
The completion of this assignment is mandatory for achieving course completion, even though it is only 10% of the overall grade. Instructions for completing a single, online training session will appear in Canvas during the second week of class. The training session requires passing one of the following three Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) courses: Physical Science RCR Course, Social and Behavioral RCR Course, or an RCR for Engineers. At the end of the module, you will receive a certificate of successful completion. You will forward notice of completion to the instructor for credit. (Note, this is a training requirement for ALL GRADUATE STUDENTS at Penn State. This course has given you the space to complete this training within the timeframe of the course.) SARI= Scholarship and Research Integrity, CITI= Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative, and RCR= Responsible Conduct of Research. Completion of assignment = 10pts, regardless of the passing score on the CITI module.
- 1 Final Project Case Study, accounting for 30% of your grade (30 pts)
Based on the various cases covered and methods learned, you will choose an ethics case-study topic of your own interests, somewhere within the scope of RESS interests. Research materials from primary and secondary sources will be used to develop a range of issues to analyze. You will then use ethical concepts and methods learned across the various lessons and apply them to the range of materials collected.
Depending on your previous experience and comfort level with a systems mode of analysis, often requiring thinking across multiple disciplinary spaces, ethics, and “lateral thinking”, you will find projects to be moderately to highly challenging. The key to success is to pace yourself, pay close attention to the assignments throughout the course, as they will be your key to applying methods in your case study. And, please take the necessary time to write at a professional level. Two to three weeks are provided to complete your final project case study. Due dates appear under the Calendar tab in Canvas.
We expect your project reports to be original. You may build upon ideas, words and illustrations produced by others, but you must paraphrase, cite, and reference such sources. Reports that contain unacknowledged contributions by others are considered to be plagiarized. We use the plagiarism detection service Turnitin.com to evaluate the originality of students' work. Detailed guidelines about how to prepare an original report are included in the "Academic Integrity Guide" that appears in the Resources section of the course text.
Course grades are awarded based on the cumulative scoring in each of the set of assignments above. There are a total of 100 points available in the assignments, with a half point being the smallest increment. There will be up to five extra credit points available, but the cumulative score will still top out at 100. Finally, letter grades are awarded on the following basis:
|A||93 – 100|
|A-||90 – 92.5|
|B+||87 – 89.5|
|B||83 – 86.5|
|B-||80 – 82.5|
|C+||77 – 79.5|
|C||70 – 76.5|
|D||60.0 – 69.5|
Assignment Due Dates
The Certificate Program in RESS and the iMPS RESS degree program were designed specifically for adult professionals who need to study part-time while they work full-time. We expect that students will occasionally encounter scheduling conflicts (Instructors do too!). When conflicts arise, students should notify instructors and request deadline extensions. Reasonable requests are granted without penalty.
Unless otherwise indicated, ALL LESSON ASSIGNMENTS are DUE at 11:55pm (your local time) the Sunday evening of that Lesson week. Lesson 1 began at midnight Monday of the first week, Lesson 1 assignments are then due in the Canvas the following Sunday at 11:55pm and the following Lesson would begin at midnight.
There will be assignments to complete in each lesson. The assignments will be "turned-in" to Assignments in Canvas.
It is recommended that the first thing a student does before beginning lesson readings is to review the week's materials and assignments.
|1||1||Ethics Matrix 1 and Discussion||10|
SARI / CITI module (Successful completion a course requirement.)
|3||3||Ethics Matrix 2 and Stakeholder Analysis||10|
|4||4||Ethics Matrix 1 and Stakeholder Analysis||10|
|5||5||Ethics Matrix 3 and Lifecycle Analysis||10|
|6||6||Ethics Matrix 1, 2, and 3||10|
|Ethics Matrices 1-3, Stakeholder Analysis, Lifecycle Analysis, and Sustainability Indicators||30|
As the schedule may change, please be sure to check it often! If you have a question about when something is due, ask your instructors! NOTE: If at any time you cannot get a reading, e-mail an instructor immediately, and we can send a pdf. We prefer to link to the readings, but links change all the time!
|Week||Lesson||Reading||Assignments* Due Sunday of the Assigned Week|
||Complete ethics matrix 1 and post comments.|
||CITI/SARI training module (successful completion required.)|
||Post questions and comments in discussion forum.|
||Complete ethics matrix 2 and stakeholder analysis worksheet.|
||Post questions and comments in discussion forum.|
||Apply ethics matrix1 and stakeholder matrix in analysis of biofuels. Write up analysis.|
||Draft of an LCA. Post comments on LCA in discussion forum.|
||Complete and apply ethics matrix 3 in analysis of goals and scope of LCA.|
Read the following articles, in order:
|Complete drafts of ethics matrix 1, 2, and 3. Post questions and comments.|
Read the following articles in order:
(Note, yes, you are supposed to reread the Science article "Impact of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality" at the end.)
|Apply ethics matrix 1, 2, and 3 and write-up analysis.|
||Propose a set of sustainability indicators based on ethics tools(ethics matrices 1, 2, and 3) and broader methods for analyzing systems (stakeholder analysis, LCA, and sustainability indicators) for a topic of your choice. Ideally, this topic would be the same as your final case topic.|
||Conduct research on topic of your choice. Generate a cluster of articles about your topic. Conduct ethical analysis (written out and explained.) Draw conclusions.|
*A NOTE ABOUT ACTIVITIES: If you have a question regarding an assignment due at 11:55 one evening, I must receive your question via Canvas e-mail no later than noon, Eastern Time, on that day. Queries sent after noon, Eastern Time, on the day an assignment is due may not be responded to, so please don't procrastinate!
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All official communications from the Penn State World Campus are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.
- Deferred Grades
If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If, for any reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.
- Late Policy
Late homework accepted under the following circumstances: (1) if prearranged with the instructor; (2) if the result of a documented emergency; or (3) if documented illness (see PARTICIPATION AND ATTENDANCE SECTION below). The exam will be a zero unless these conditions are met. Other excuses are not valid.
- Academic Integrity
This course follows the guidelines for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly project in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting other's work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other student's papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students." I cannot overemphasize the importance of academic integrity. DO NOT copy and paste from unreferenced sources. Without exception: if you use a direct quote from any source, as part of any submitted assignment, the quote must be clearly noted and properly referenced.(In-line references are fine.)
Citation and Reference Style
Academic Integrity and Citation Style Guide
Re: Citation Style, I prefer Chicago 15 or 16 ed.
Here is why... many citation styles tend to drop some information that can be useful, such as the first name (often replaced with just an initial.)
If you have time to learn this easy step, it's quick to auto-generate a Chicago style formation for your document by following these steps. Go to WorldCat.org, and find your book or article via a search. For example: http://www.worldcat.org/title/sustainable-energy-choosing-among-options/...
Find the link in the upper right corner that says "Cite/Export". Clicking on this link gives you an in-window pop-up with a variety of citation options. Click on the Chicago (15th ed) and you can copy and then paste either into a document or export for download and import into your citation management software if you use it.
Tester, Jefferson W. 2012. Sustainable Energy : Choosing among Options. MIT Press.
With all of the various free citation and bibliography software tools out there, there is no reason one would need to manually type in a citation any more. Further, it is very good to get into the habit of collecting your citations so you can go back to them later.
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In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation: http://equity.psu.edu/ods/guidelines. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.
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- Inclement Weather
In case of weather-related delays at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to weather delays. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.
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Where trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.
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For information about additional policies regarding items such as Penn State Access Accounts, course tuition, fees, and refund schedules, and drops and withdrawals, please see the World Campus Student Policies Web site.
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For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements  page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the IT Service Desk  (for students at University Park and all other campus locations).
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Here is a web page that shows this shield and explains this in more detail. If you have questions, please contact the World Campus HelpDesk< for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at University Park and all other campus locations).
Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi® hotspot.
Disclaimer: Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes will be posted to the course discussion forum.