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Case Studies

Students develop ethical awareness and moral reasoning skills through methodical analysis and discussion of case studies. The main contribution of the GIS Professional Ethics Project is a collection of case studies that pose a range of ethical challenges faced by geospatial professionals. Related educator resources are available on request for most cases.

To learn more about the case method, including a "Seven Step Guide for Ethical Decision Making," see Davis, Michael (1999) The Case Method. Ethics and the University. New York: Routledge. For an example of ethical decision making using the "Mapping Muslim Neighbors" case, see DiBiase, David, Chris Goranson, Francis Harvey and Dawn Wright (2009). The GIS Professional Ethics Project: Practical Ethics Education for GIS Pros. Proceedings of the 24th International Cartography Conference. Santiago, Chile, 15-21 November.

mapping_muslim_neighbors_case.pdf A police department's plan to map potential terrorist enclaves brings charges of racial profiling.
caribou_routes_case.pdf A GIS analyst is asked to exclude pertinent data from maps prepared for a public hearing.
mobile_phone_tracking_case.pdf Researchers track mobile phone users' movements to derive predictive models of human mobility.
software_emergency_case.pdf Too few software licenses are available in the aftermath of a tsunami.
e911_conflict_case.pdf A municipal GIS manager troubled by what appears to be a conflict of interest considers filing a formal ethics complaint.
collateral_damage_case.pdf A geospatial intelligence analyst predicts the civilian casualties in likely to be caused by a pre-emptive missile attack.
satellite_contract_case.pdf A sales representative is expected to withhold information that could affect availability of a data product.
fire_mapping_case.pdf A member of the press asks a government employee to leak the results of a GIS analysis about a controversial wild land fire.
llrw_siting_map_case.pdf Map masks potentially suitable sites for low-level radioactive waste storage facility.
submarine_crash_case.pdf A nuclear submarine's crash into an uncharted seamount raises ethical issues for Navy training personnel.
data_access_case.pdf A governmental agency's need to recoup user fees conflicts with a public records law.
alpha_software_case.pdf Entrepreneurial GIS programmer is tempted to use a friend's code to win a lucrative contract.
bear_baiting_case.pdf Should locations of controversial hunting stations be mapped?
environmental_justice_case.pdf GIS programmer ponders a contract for a web map overlays toxic industrial sites and at-risk communities.
tidal_wetland_mapping_case.pdf A scope of work statement and established mapping procedures prevent a GIS analyst from adding wetlands to a conservation database.
privacy_and_planning_case.pdf A GIS professional considers filing an ethics complaint about lax protection of the confidentiality of a sensitive database.
ethical_minefield_case.pdf Should a surveying and mapping crew chief pay a bribe to acquire data needed to conduct field reconnaissannce safely? (Pre-publication draft)

Codes of Ethics GIS Code of Ethics GIS Certification Institute Rules of Conduct American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing Code of Ethics

Syllabi Syllabus of Penn State class GEOG 864: Professionalism and Ethics in Geographic Information Science and Technology
8291Syllabus - version 0.6.pdf Syllabus of the Fall 2008 offering of University of Minnesota class GEOG 8291: GIS Ethics: Accuracy and Responsibility  Syllabus of Winter 2009 offering of Oregon State class GEO 599: Responsible GIS Practice: Ethics for Future Geospatial Professionals
Ghose_GIS_Society_syllabus_Sp09.pdf Syllabus of Spring 2009 offering of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee class GEOG 734: GIS and Society (contributed by Rina Ghose)

Practitioner Interview Protocols

GIS&T .Ethics.Interview.protocol.2.doc Interview protocol revised after project workshop (March 2008) and IRB-approved for use by Penn State students

Other Resources References consulted during the GISProfessional Ethics Project. Save and import this file into a new EndNote library. Updated 26 January 2009. Open Forum on Participatory Geographic Information Systems and Technologies - Practical Ethics in PGIS/PPGIS Practice