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Ethical Implications of Values Embedded in Computational Models: An Exploratory Study

Kenneth R. Fleischmann and William A. Wallace

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


This NSF-funded research study examines the role of social, cultural, and moral values in computational modeling. This project emerges at the intersection of the process of modeling and the ethics of modeling. Three hypotheses were used to guide the research: 1) that values are embedded in computational models; 2) that the ethical frameworks of the organization and the profession influence what values are embedded during the modeling process; and 3) that the success or failure of a model as a product is influenced by the values that are embedded during the modeling process. To test these hypotheses, the researchers employed a multiple-methodology approach to data collection and analysis, including surveys, interviews, and participant observation. After a preliminary analysis of the data, the data provide support for all three hypotheses. This study aims to contribute to the literature on the ethics of modeling by providing an in-depth case study of the ethics and values of computational modeling. This study also makes important societal contributions, such as to improve the practice of computational modeling by demonstrating to modelers how values are embedded in the models that they produce and the ethical implications of these embedded values.

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