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3 Ethics Education in Science and Engineering Approaches to Ethics Education Workshop participants generally agreed that a major goal of ethics education is to encourage faculty and students to question the decisions, practices, and processes around them so they can make better informed decisions and help shape a community of which they want to be part. In the âPierre-exampleâ in the textbox, has Pierre been taught about the importance of documenting his decisions and considered what the codes of ethics at various corporations might tell him about the desired procedures? Some attendees pointed out that most graduate students and post- doctoral fellows currently learn research practices primarily through ad hoc, informal exposures in their individual laboratories, rather than through formal training. These ad hoc approaches are unlikely to be effective, they said, and therefore the expectations of ethical conduct and beneficial outcomes on the part of professional societies, employers, government funding agencies, and the public are unlikely to be met. Several participants said that a consistent approach to ethics educa- tion and mentoring would make it easier for students and faculty to meet academic and professional standards and employer expectations. Others said the focus of formal training should go beyond professional ethics and research practice to the development of competencies in analyzing how social and technical factors interact. At that point, they said, faculty and postdoctoral and graduate students would have the skills to evalu- ate the cultures of organizations and the institutions where they were employed. Charles Huff, St. Olaf College, reported results of research that had involved numerous collaborators and sources of support. The 11
12 ETHICS EDUCATION AND SCIENTIFIC AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH r Â esearchers, he told the group, decided that, rather than examining indi- vidual ethical decisions, they would take a performance-based approach (one looking at the progression of a career over time) to the question of developing an ethically exemplary career in computing. Huff analyzed two major types of morally exemplary individuals in computing, those oriented toward craft (e.g., those concerned with com- puter accessibility for disabled users) and those oriented toward reform Since I direct an RCR course, (e.g., those concerned with comput- I like to start with cases. ing and privacy). These types, he We have got Pierre here . . . said, represent different moral ecol- a postdoctoral fellow . . . trying to get a job . . . about to go to ogies (i.e., environments in which a national meeting to present individuals can develop ethically his work. He has been told exemplary careers). Characteristics that the representative from in a âmodelâ of ethical performance the company he wants to over time include âmoral ecologies, work for will be there. Some of his data points he thinks individual personality, relevant skills are questionable, so he thinks and knowledge, and the integration about leaving them out. . . . of morality into the individual self.â Are we helping Pierre make Understanding these complexi- the right decision? ties, workshop attendees pointed out, leads to understanding the Wendy Reed Williams, The Childrenâs Hospital of limitations of approaches to ethics PhiladelphiaÂ education that focus only on indi- vidual decision points. Training in the skills and knowledge necessary to address particular ethical issues in research can provide guidance for an analysis of particular situations but cannot inoculate individuals against questionable practices. Understanding the complexities encour- ages an ethics perspective that goes beyond compliance toward ethical ideals. Materials submitted by Huff and workshop participant Stephanie Bird, an independent consultant in research ethics and leader of the lunchtime discussion of the ethics scenario, identified skills and knowl- edge that should be developed in ethics education. The required skills include: â¢ Recognizing and defining ethical issues. â¢ Identifying relevant stakeholders and socio-technical systems. â¢ Collecting relevant data about the stakeholders and systems.
ETHICS EDUCATION FOR SCIENCE AND ENGINERING 13 â¢ Understanding relevant stakeholder perspectives. â¢ Identifying value conflicts. â¢ Constructing viable alternative courses of action or solutions and identifying constraints. â¢ Assessing alternatives in terms of consequences, public Âdefensibility, institutional barriers, etc. â¢ Engaging in reasoned dialogue or negotiations. â¢ Revising options, plans, or actions. Both Huff and Bird stressed that ethics education should address both domain-specific and general content areas. Domain-specific areas might include issues of privacy or safety, access, intellectual property, Once you get outside the methods of data collection and context of universities, there analysis, and technical knowledge is very little sort of collective of constraints and opportunities. frameworkâcollective venues General content might cover appro- for ethics talk. . . . We need priate ethical guidelines, character- to think about how we can ization of socio-technical systems, change . . . institutions like weapons labs, industries, and ethical argument, and ethical dis- so on . . . so that people have sent and whistle-blowing. venues where they feel it is Science and engineering students okay to talk through these require both skills and knowledge to issues. make ethical decisions. Many par- Hugh Gusterson, ticipants pointed out, however, that George Mason University skills and knowledge are not suffi- cient if the individual does not have the personal and social motivators that encourage praiseworthy behavior. Environments must be structured to reward individuals who demonstrate ethical behavior. CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE Ethics Education Workshop participants noted that NSF, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Office of Research Integrity all fund projects in research ethics. Successful strategies for teaching research ethics generally include required (rather than optional) participation in ethics education, active participation by relevant faculty, and interactive and recurring programs. Programs must also be tailored to meet the needs of researchers in specific fields. The specifics of biomedical ethics edu-
14 ETHICS EDUCATION AND SCIENTIFIC AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH cation, for example, do not translate directly to other fields, just as the specifics of ethics education for laboratory chemistry do not translate directly to field biology, ecology, archaeology, or engineering. In his presentation during Panel I, Joseph Helble of Dartmouth noted that students entering graduate school face many challenges. They are no longer searching for âthe right answer,â he said, but for We need to think about new answers. Advisors and senior peoplesâ moral . . . and ethical commitments in a larger students in their new laborato- picture of the different kinds ries usually have established ways of moral careers that people of doing things and expectations might structure for themselves. that their junior colleagues may . . . âI do this because Iâm just not understand, especially if they that kind of an engineerâ . . . have not taken courses in research moral creativity [is] particularly important in design issues. procedures. Faced with pressure How do you come up with to produce, students may go along designs that satisfy multiple with procedures that make them constraints, many of them . . . uncomfortable, or they may cut cor- social constraints? ners to come up with timely results. Charles Huff, Campus-wide ethics training can St. Olaf College prepare students to face these ethi- cal difficulties, he said. In addition, such a campus-wide program or set of activities can improve an institutionâs competitiveness with funding agenciesâan example of âdoing well by doing good.â In a small group discussion on the second day of the meeting, participants identified additional challenges that ethics activities and programs may face. Faculty members may not believe the programs are needed; students may be faced with inconsistencies between formal ethics training and lab cultures and investigatorsâ priorities; faculty may lack expertise or feel uncomfortable about teaching ethics; institu- tions may lack resources to support ethics activities; and instructional methods must be appropriate for the target audience. In addition, several participants pointed out, in presentations and discussions, that working with graduate students and postdoctoral f Â ellows from other countries raises particular questions: whether stu- dents from other countries understand the content of ethics training; how teachers can learn from and accommodate students from different backgrounds; and how diversity among graduate students and postÂ doctoral fellows can improve learning opportunities and outcomes.
ETHICS EDUCATION FOR SCIENCE AND ENGINERING 15 In Session III (Outreach and Assessment), Joseph Whittaker, ÂMorgan State University, pointed out that the lack of data on what works, what doesnât work, and what has had mixed results has impeded the devel- opment of programs that build on prior successes and avoid prior failures. Some courses meet with I have some strongâfrom my experience in industryâstrong student satisfaction and achieve beliefs in how ethical issues intellectual goals, he said, but the can be discussed. . . . content, techniques, and long-term There are rules, but much of outcomes of those courses are not the learning happens in highly assessed or measured. ambiguous case studies where groups of practitioners sit Participants in discussions also around a table and enrich the flagged several areas for improve- discussion by [describing] how ment. First, they recommended they would have approached looking beyond classroom learning the solution to that case and individual conduct to broad example. programs that teach the importance Paul Citron, of integrity by stressing shared Medtronic (retired) standards, such as transparency in research, and indicators of meritori- ous practices. Second, universities should establish rewards for faculty members who participate in ethics education and use metrics to mea- sure individual and institutional changes. Third, professional societies should play a more active role in establishing and promoting ethical standards. They might, for instance, establish ethics columns in their newsletters and journals, as some organizations and employers have done successfully.