KIE/Bass Connection partnership project selections made for 2014-2015

Bass-KIEThis fall, KIE became the first of Duke’s signature institutes to partner with the new interdisciplinary initiative Bass Connections to provide support for research projects. Included in the call for project proposals for the upcoming year was a new opportunity for funding thanks to the generous support of the Jon Silver Family Fund.

“The Bass and Kenan Institute for Ethics partnership is one we hold up as a model for partnerships with units around the University,” says Susan Roth, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. “With the Silver Family and Kenan’s generous contribution, we have the capacity to encourage project teams in areas of overlapping interest to Kenan and our theme areas.”

In addition to meeting the Bass Connections requirements for interdisciplinary teams of problem-based researchers uniting undergraduates, graduate students, post-docs and faculty, selected projects had to have an explicit ethical dimension and include plans for a public symposium. Faculty leaders from the initiative and the institute together selected three projects for the 2014-2015 academic year:


“Moral Judgments About and By Stimulant Users”
Bass Connections theme: Brain & Society
KIE program connection: Moral Attitudes and Decision-Making
Faculty Leadership: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Philosophy and Ethics); Phil Costanzo (Psychology and Neuroscience)

This project will explore moral attitudes, decisions, and judgments about regular use of stimulants used therapeutically, recreationally, or as cognitive enhancers (with or without a prescription). The specific questions to be addressed include: (1) How different are the moral judgments of users and non-users? This includes judgments of moral responsibility for any resulting harms or unfairness. (2) Do differences in moral judgments explain why some people use and others do not? (3) Are these moral judgments based on harm to self or others or, instead, on fairness or on disgust at perceived impurity or unnaturalness? Does the basis of these judgments vary between users and non-users?


“The Language of Genocide and Human Rights”
Bass Connections theme: Information, Society & Culture
KIE program connection: Human Rights
Faculty leadership: Ruth Grant (Political Science and Philosophy); Malachi Hacohen (History)

In 1941, Raphael Lemkin traversed the globe, from Sweden eventually to Duke Law School, were he taught for two years. It was during this time at Duke that Lemkin single-handedly coined the term “genocide”—referring to the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, caste, religious, or national group. The term genocide is now a mainstay of contemporary human rights discussion and policy, referring to a diverse swath of ethically charged human atrocities, from slavery to microbial disease. This project will pull from the diverse knowledge of linguistics, history, literature, public policy, political science, and human rights philosophy to take aim at what happens in the discrepancies between etymology and policy, between rhetorical charge and political action.


“Living Donor Kidney Transplants and the Good Samaritan: The Religious, Legal, and Ethical Challenges of Non-simultaneous, Extended, Altruistic Donor Chains”

Bass Connections theme: Global Health and Brain & Society
KIE program connection: Moral Attitudes and Decision-Making
Faculty leadership: David Toole (Divinity and Global Health); Kim Krawiec (Law)

Non-simultaneous, extended, altruistic donor (NEAD) chains are a novel way of increasing the pool of living kidney donors. They capitalize on paired donation: a strategy for overcoming the barriers that confront patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) when the only living potential donors willing to donate are deemed unsuitable. Each year in the U.S., ESRD leads to 90,000 deaths and costs Medicare $28 billion. Even more, ESRD highlights the health disparities of African Americans and Hispanics, among others, and it raises a host of important questions for those from medicine, divinity, law, sociology, and the brain sciences. These areas to explore include: What motivates the small number of people willing to give a kidney to a complete stranger? Are the agreements between donor pairs contractual and enforceable? Can NEAD chains become international?