The goal of the concluding session of the workshop was for participants to identify practical guidance on ethics education for faculty and administrators. To facilitate discussion the participants were asked about the goals and objectives of ethics education, institutional efforts, and assessment. They were also asked to identify examples of successful practices and efforts.
Goals and Objectives of Education
The wrap-up discussion began by addressing a key question of the workshop: What should be the goals and objectives for ethics education? Michael Kalichman observed that the papers presented at the workshop had outlined the current goals and objectives of RCR education, and that they varied widely. He suggested that it would be almost impossible to achieve all of the goals and objectives discussed.
Julia Kent pointed out that the principles that guide the development of both RCR and research ethics education are also important, and she articulated six principles for ethics education efforts more generally: (1) education should be both broad and discipline specific, (2) it should be appropriate to the student’s stage of study and appropriately sequenced, (3) it should be outcome oriented in the area of learning assessment, (4) it should be “reverse engineered” so that the outcomes meet the goals, (5) the outcomes should be made explicit to students, and (6) the education should be flexible to accommodate different career paths.
Robert Nerem agreed with Kent’s call for guiding principles, and emphasized their importance to an organization’s culture. Kent responded with three key elements to successful institutional interventions to improve the ethical culture: (1) institutional leadership at the very top, (2) collaborative ethics education, and (3) evidence-based ethics education.
Kalichman proposed that one “guiding principle” should be for ethics education to have an impact on the institution as a whole, emphasizing that the focus should be not just on the individual but rather on the community.
Joe Herkert observed a tension he often perceives between faculty in the humanities and in the sciences over who should have the authority to teach ethics in science and engineering, so he argued a successful program needs an institutional climate that supports collaborative ethics education.
Kent proposed that institutions think about how faculty might be rewarded for good mentoring and ethics education, because the current institutional culture and tenure process do not reward those efforts. Stephanie Bird seconded this call and added that it was important to have faculty and postdocs model the correct behavior. Carl Lineberger suggested that one goal should be to define very clearly the hierarchy of responsibilities in an institution relating to RCR, and that those in a position of authority had a responsibility to imbue students and colleagues with the concepts of RCR.
Standards and Comparisons
Building on the subject of institutional culture and Kent’s and Kalichman’s descriptions of how their research compares institutions, the discussion turned to the possibility of educational standards or a framework that would span institutions. Michael Davis introduced this idea when he said that universities these days are in the business of creating research and researchers, and that if both could earn an integrity stamp they would be more marketable. He suggested that the assessment methods described by Kent and Kalichman might be used to establish the elements of a technical standard in which institutional climate and processes could be assessed and, if they met the requirement, awarded a certificate. Kent demurred, saying she was wary of any attempts to use the CGS assessment tools as certifications or stamps of quality. But she did note that the ultimate goal of the CGS project was to lay out a framework for evaluating the climate and identifying best practices at an institution, while also giving individual institutions benchmarks for comparison with other institutions. The CGS provides online tools and information on benchmarking (www.cgsnet.org/benchmarking).
Brian Martinson partially agreed with Davis’s idea about certificates because they could get institutions to compete with each other over their culture on ethics and their ethics education efforts. However, he noted that research and assessment are still focused inward with the goal of giving institutional leaders the information they need to lead change, and not yet on having institutions compare themselves. Deborah Johnson concurred that it was a good idea to bring to light how institutions compare but said she would not support a certification process because of problems associated with it, such as gaming the system.
Life Long Learning and Decision-making Skills
Returning to the goals and objectives of ethics education, Kalichman argued that good ethical decision-making skills should not be the goal of ethics training but rather a side effect of the better goal of increasing people’s willingness and ability to have conversations about ethical challenges of conducting research. Sara Wilson argued that it is not possible to teach students everything they need to know to be responsible engineers, they should instead be taught to be lifelong learners of ethics and social responsibility, and they should learn to continue to engage themselves in ethical questioning and discussion. She called for the creation of institutional environments that foster such discussion. Bird added that students should be encouraged, persuaded, and taught to think in the larger context about the implications and circumstances of cases they study in the classroom.
Herkert noted that understanding how to go about solving ethical problems is a very important skill that engineering students will need in their careers. Kalichman acknowledged that undergraduates need more guidance on decision making, but stood by his earlier statement. He clarified that he was not suggesting that case studies not be discussed or that teachers not explicitly describe how one analyzes cases; rather, he objected to an approach to ethics education that tells students they are not skilled at dealing with ethical challenges and must be taught to be ethical..He argued that this approach was a bad place to start with students, but that it could be turned around by reframing ethics education by telling students that we want to talk about some ethical challenges they are likely to face and that this is part of being a good scientist.
Framing Ethics Education
Ronald Kline echoed Kalichman’s point about framing the education so that the ethics component is part of being a good scientist or engineer. He also argued that it is not possible to separate the individual from the climate because individuals create the climate. He added that ethics needs to be taught in a way that incorporates good practice, which includes social responsibility in addition to the traditional RCR training.
Johnson also agreed with Kalichman, adding that if ethics is framed as separate from science and engineering we risk losing the bigger battle, which is to have people understand that ethical practices are an integral part of research and engineering. She also suggested “good science” might be a better term than “research ethics” or “research integrity.” Davis countered that “good science” might not be an effective term because research that advances the field might be good but it could have negative societal implications, such as research on chemical poisons. Kline liked the idea of using “good science” instead of RCR because the word “conduct” excludes social responsibility, although in response to Davis’s concern about the term “good science” he suggested “responsible science” and “responsible engineering.” Martinson pointed out that “research integrity” is already in use and that it leaves space for social responsibility to be included, so “integrity in research” or “integrity of research” might be viable terms. Bird and C.K. Gunsalus preferred “responsible science” and “responsible engineering” because these terms have good connotations and promote the idea of lifelong learning in ethics.
Johnson urged the group to seriously consider Kalichman’s argument that teachers focus not on ethical decision making but on improving the willingness of students to engage in ethical conversation. She endorsed this approach because it focuses on making a space for ethics as an appropriate topic for active study and exploration, and thus is in harmony with the idea that ethics is part of science and engineering.
Two additional suggestions were made regarding the improvement of ethics education. Johnson, contending that liberal arts education was an important part of ethics education strategies, called for an update of the liberal arts curriculum to address current issues in science and engineering ethics. Nerem added that science and engineering textbooks might also be updated to include a historical perspective on the two fields and to bring to light ethical dilemmas associated with particular engineering projects or research.
Goals and Objectives of Assessment
The discussion moved to consideration of the goals and objectives of assessment of ethics education. Michael Loui noted that a good ethics education assessment, with both qualitative and quantitative data, is crucial in determining whether educational and cultural interventions were successful. He noted that there is not much research on the effectiveness of classroom interventions because it cannot be done ethically as a controlled experiment and thus is fraught with uncertainties in the assessment process.
Heather Canary reiterated this point and described some examples of qualitative methods. One method involves asking students what they felt were some of the most effective—and ineffective—methods for addressing ethics and social responsibility. Based on her research, Canary said that students liked having multiple ways that they could engage in issues, so she suggested that teachers use mixed pedagogical methods. Loui added that open-ended qualitative questions could reveal unintended outcomes of the education; for example, what did students remember from the class, what were the takeaway lessons, and what were the high points?
Examples of Successful Educational Efforts
The discussion concluded with examples of successful educational efforts and methods for impacting institutional culture. Gunsalus described interdisciplinary efforts with faculty in the sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to demonstrate that responsible work takes significant effort and practice. The UIUC guidance for faculty on teaching research ethics focuses on problem identification, resources for resolving problems, and differentiation between ethics and compliance. She made clear that the UIUC faculty guidance does not entail focusing on a range of topics that must be covered but on modeling good behavior and ensuring that informal practices match the students’ formal education. And she recognized that there probably is not a one-size-fits-all model for ethics education.
Kline described a program at Cornell University that is integrating business, legal, and engineering ethics through the use of a case called Incident at Morales (www.niee.org/ProductsServices-IncidentatMorales.htm). He explained that the idea for the integrated class with business and law came about because engineering students pointed out that they were not the only ones that had to consider ethical decisions in the world of engineering firms and businesses. Gunsalus agreed that Incident at Morales was a good case and noted that it is used in business ethics classes at UIUC.
Herkert reported that the class described in his paper was able to effectively engage students in micro- and macroethics issues in the same class, though not always at the same time, and that it was a good example of successful ethics education. He also mentioned a required course developed at Lafayette College about 20 years ago called Values in Science and Technology (VEST) and a requirement for all students at North Carolina State University to study Science and Technology Studies (STS), which engineering students there often fulfilled by taking a course in engineering and science ethics.
Johnson noted that the University of Virginia has had success in creating a whole curriculum that incorporates ethics and social responsibility. The senior project of engineering students there is a portfolio that includes engineering research and an STS research paper on a social or ethical issue related to their engineering research. Furthermore, the humanities and social science education requirements for engineers are structured so that they are focused around engineering research. Rachelle Hollander noted that one positive characteristic of many successful programs is that they are interactive and engage students to focus their attention on the material.
Kelly Laas suggested that one way to effectively promote social responsibility might be through service learning–type projects that get students out of the classroom. She mentioned the option of building bridges between on-campus social groups like Engineers Without Borders to get students to think about social responsibility and also help create a lifelong practice of reflecting on engineering and science and their impacts on society. Elizabeth Cady, NAE program officer, reinforced this point by citing a recent NAE report, Real World Experiences in Engineering Education, that describes programs, including those involving service learning, that bring up ethical issues for students and lead them to think about their social responsibility.
Davis described some successful methods for influencing institutional culture through the efforts of individual faculty rather than led by institutional leaders; he referred to these efforts as “guerrilla ethics strategies.” One possibility was to hold an “ethics bowl” on campus, focused on ethical issues in science or engineering. And he recounted a second example, one he had seen in practice many years ago, in which a teacher asked undergraduate students to come up with questions about research ethics and interview faculty members. This, Davis reported, had the effect of causing the faculty to begin discussing ethical issues at lunch in the faculty room.
Bird concluded that based on many of the examples discussed it seemed like a good idea for institutions to integrate ethics in all sorts of ways. This meant going beyond traditional courses on research ethics or RCR to include guerrilla ethics strategies. She suggested that having at least one lecture a year, in a department seminar, on ethical issues or social responsibility would be another good strategy. She added that these strategies are important because they help to establish a climate for discussing ethics issues among both students and faculty.