GEOG 581: Spatial Data Science Ethics
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. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the Course Orientation. Together these serve as our course "contract."
- Course Overview
- Required Course Materials
- Assignments and Grading
- Course Policies
Contact information: Please use the Canvas course email system (Inbox link in the Canvas menu). Mail sent to me via Canvas also forwards to my main mail account, so I won't miss your message.
Prepares current and aspiring professionals to recognize, analyze and address legal and ethical issues in the GIS&T (geospatial) field. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor.
GEOG 581 is for students who are concerned about the ethical implications and social impacts of geospatial technologies and methods. It traces the roots of Spatial Data Science Ethics in moral philosophy, professional ethics frameworks, and critical studies in the geospatial field. Students analyze non-trivial ethical case studies in which right and wrong actions are not clear-cut. They compare and critique relevant legal and policy issues in the U.S. and abroad. They evaluate the organizational ethics of firms and agencies (including current or potential employers) that provide spatial data science products and services, and they create and refine a proposed “ethics of digital care” for leading balanced digital lives. Finally, they develop a research Term Project to conceptualize and interrogate ethical issues related to their own research work. Course activities include readings, case study analyses, bi-weekly presentations, class discussions, and scholarly Term Project written reports.
What is expected of you?
According to Penn State’s Faculty Senate, "For the typical student, a total of forty-five (45) hours of work planned and arranged by the University faculty is required to gain 1 credit." This three-credit course is designed to engage you in approximately 135 hours of purposeful activity leading to fulfillment of the educational objectives outlined below. You should therefore expect to devote 13-14 hours of effort per week to readings, writing assignments, presentations, and communications.
Students who successfully complete the course will be prepared to:
- Practice academic integrity and ethical conduct of research;
- Apply moral reasoning theories to ethical challenges encountered in research and professional practice;
- Compare and critique pertinent professional ethics codes, laws, and regulations; and
- Create original, publishable written inquiries, critiques, and case study analyses that advance Spatial Data Science Ethics.
To achieve the objectives proposed above, students will:
- Successfully complete Penn State’s required graduate research training for human subjects research;
- Formally analyze ethics case studies chosen from the NSF-sponsored collection curated at gisethics.org, the Princeton Dialogues on AI and Ethics, and the Data Ethics Cases published by the Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society;
- Reference and discuss pertinent ethics codes, laws, and regulations in case study analyses;
- Present and discuss case study analyses and related inquiries; and
- Prepare Term Projects consisting of original, publishable inquiries, critiques, and case studies.
The Term Project assignment requires students to seek out their own sources (starting from, but not limited to, a list of references the instructor provides). Students may or may not need to buy one or more books.
Assistance with textbooks
Penn State honors and values the socioeconomic diversity of our students. If you require assistance with the costs of textbooks for this course, please visit the Office of Student Care and Advocacy at 120 Boucke Building or call 814-863-4926.
For additional needs, related to socioeconomic status, please visit Project Cahir
Online lesson content
All other materials needed for this course are presented online through Canvas. In order to access the online 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 World Campus Helpdesk.
Evaluation criteria are provided for each graded assignment. Assignments will account for the following percentages of students’ course grades:
- Student presentations (live and/or recorded), including Term Project – 67.5%
- Contributions to class discussions - 15%
- Successful completion of CITI training in Human Subjects Research and other assignments – 5%
I will use the Canvas gradebook to keep track of your grades. You can see your grades in the gradebook, too. Overall course grades will be determined as follows. Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned.
|Assignments||#||Points Each||Total Possible Points|
Student Presentations (live and/or recorded)
|Student Term Project Presentations||1||≤35||≤35|
|CITI Training and Other Assignments||2||≤5||≤10|
|Total Possible Points||n/a||n/a||≤200|
For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus 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 HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at 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.
This site is considered a secure web site which means that your connection is encrypted. We do however link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted. This is called mixed content. By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed. Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.
Penn State E-mail Accounts
All official communications from Penn State 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.
This course follows the procedures for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity 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 others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' 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 Academic Integrity Training for Students.
All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.
For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website
In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. 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.
Change in Normal Campus Operations
In case of weather-related delays or other emergency camps disruptions or closures 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 these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.
Reporting Educational Equity Concerns
Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.
Counseling and Psychological Services
Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being. The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings. These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Services include the following:
Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741
Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.
Connect Online with Caution
Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision-making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information to others whom you do not know.
If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period. It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy. If for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.
This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.
If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect
Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.
For additional information, see:
- Penn State Affirmative Action Nondiscrimination Statement
- Policy AD 85 Sexual and/or Gender-Based Harassment and Misconduct, Title IX
- Penn State Values
- Action Together: Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Penn State
- Assessment of the Living, Learning, and Working Environment (ALLWE) in EMS| Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Mandated Reporting Statement
Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.
Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.
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. All changes will be communicated with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.