Morgridge cartoon contest seeks to spark creative thinking on bioethics

Can you find the humor while searching for the ethical high ground? A new cartooning contest sponsored by the Morgridge Institute for Research will reward the most creative bioethical thinkers with up to $3,500 in cash prizes.

Morgridge bioethicist in residence Pilar Ossorio devised the contest to encourage scientists in training to talk and think openly about how bioethics intersects with their research lives. The idea will be to depict a bioethical research challenge — big or small — through an original sketch, drawing or painting.

“People often think of research ethics as focusing on what researchers can’t do. It’s framed in the negative, it’s all finger-wagging,” says Ossorio, a UW–Madison professor of law and medical ethics. “We wanted to do something that would bring some humor to the whole subject area, and let people be creative when thinking about their ethical problems and ethical issues that they confront.”

Example from McMaster University

Eligible parties include any graduate student or postdoctoral fellow currently studying at or employed by the University of Wisconsin–Madison or an affiliated institution; and any postdoctoral fellow currently employed by the Morgridge Institute. Participants must work in the biomedical sciences, including biomedical engineering, data and imaging sciences.

Prizes include $3,500 for 1st Place, $1,000 for 2nd and $500 for 3rd. Winners will be chosen by a panel of judges and an online general public vote.

“It’s part of our mission as an ethics group at Morgridge to encourage researchers to consider ethics in their day-to-day scientific lives and scientific practice,” she adds. “Scientists’ everyday judgment calls can raise ethical issues, it’s not only about the big, glaring, obvious problems.”

There is no shortage of — or limit to — topics, she says. People can riff on privacy issues in health data, informed consent for research subjects, used of biotechnology for human enhancement, plagiarism, image manipulation, or a one-time head-scratcher encountered in the lab.

Registration for the competition is open now through Nov. 1, 2017, while the deadline for submissions is Dec. 1. Voting will take place in January 2018 and winners will be announced on February 19, 2018.

Visit the website for a complete description of the contest.

For questions, email, or call 608-316-4400.