Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TWST 7: Testers, stakeholders and ethical questions

Over the weekend I was attending a peer conference:
7th annual Toronto Workshop on Software Testing (TWST).

 The theme of the workshop was:
“Stakeholders: the tester’s duty to represent, and other ethical questions”.
  1. Do we have a duty to represent the stakeholders of a software system?
  2. How do we determine who they are?
  3. If there are conflicting priorities, how do we decide which stakeholder group is “more important”?
  4. How far do we take our responsibilities?
  5. Are there other ethical issues with regard to stakeholders that you have experienced in your testing?
I found the subject particularly interesting since I spend so much of my time testing medical products. The patient stakeholder has very little power, bears the risks, and will suffer direct harm if there are failures. For me, there is an ethical responsibility to appropriately consider and protect vulnerable stakeholders. "Ethical Conduct" after all is the first principle in the World Health Organization's Handbook on GCP.

One interesting finding from the workshop was the concept of "the zeroth ethical stakeholder" - which is yourself. People need to be more self-aware of the ethical dilemmas they are entering, how they will resolve competing values between stakeholders, and what their ethical bright-lines are.

Ethical concerns are corrosive and need to be surfaced and dealt with - ethically and congruently - for the health of the people, the organization, and project.

  1. Do you think testers have an ethical duty to stakeholders?
  2. Have you had ethical concerns during your projects? 
  3. How was it resolved?
  4. How does the culture of your organization or project deal with people's ethical concerns?
  5. What are your ethical bright-lines that you would leave/quit over?

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