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Date:  July 24, 2009

Contacts:  Randy Atkins


Rachelle Hollander



New Report from the National Academy of Engineering Looks at Ethics Education and Scientific and Engineering Research


WASHINGTON -- Despite recent initiatives to develop ethics education and mentoring, gaps in such education persist and the measurement of the effectiveness of these programs remains an unanswered challenge, according to a new workshop report -- Ethics Education and Scientific and Engineering Research: What’s Been Learned?  What Should Be Done? -- from the National Academy of Engineering.


Recognizing that current competitive and complex research environments pose increasing ethical challenges for research scientists and engineers, the NAE convened a two-day workshop where participants discussed needs and issues for ethics education; pedagogical methods and materials; and outreach and assessment. 


A number of ideas emerged from the workshop and, while they do not represent a consensus or formal recommendations from the Academy, they were generally agreed upon as the primary issues for bolstering ethics education and evaluation.  Those are:


·                     Context – Academic institutions should show they have established wide-ranging programs to stimulate and reward ethically appropriate behavior.

·                     Learning – Student participation should be mandatory and a repository of information about best practices should be created with a plan for dissemination of these materials to colleges and universities. 

·                     Criteria for programs and activities – Successful programs involve research faculty using case studies and interactive formats supplemented with appropriate online materials.

·                     Interactivity – Students have a facility for online resources that are accessible and interactive.  Ethics-focused instructional materials must reflect this. 

·                     Mentoring – Science and engineering faculty and faculty with ethics education responsibilities should work together on mentoring postdoctoral fellows and graduate students at the dissertation level. 

·                     Evaluation – Appropriate agencies should fund a workshop to develop evaluation criteria and measures for ethics education in science and engineering curricula. 

·                     Social responsibility and responsible conduct of research – Support should be given to programs that creatively teach ethics and the social responsibilities of science and engineering, as well as the responsible conduct of research.


The workshop was supported by the National Science Foundation and organized by the NAE’s Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society (CEES) with input from the National Research Council’s Division on Policy and Global Affairs and Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy.   More information is available at the CEES Web site.