, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 487-498

Effects of training in the responsible conduct of research: A survey of graduate students in experimental sciences

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In recent years, programs for training in research ethics have become widespread, but very little has been done to assess the effectiveness of this training. Because initial studies have failed to demonstrate a positive impact of research ethics training, this project defined two new outcome variables to be tested in a sample of graduate students at the University of California, San Diego. Trainees were surveyed to assess the role of ethics training in altering their perceptions about their own standards, or their knowledge of options available to them if faced with ethical problems that might arise in conducting and reporting research. In response to a mailing of 505 anonymous questionnaires, 283 replies were received. Similar to previous studies, perceptions of standards were not significantly affected by hours spent in informal discussions about research ethics, in attending courses on research ethics, or in discussions of case studies. However, self-reported knowledge of options for facing research ethics problems was significantly increased in association with increased hours of discussion, class time, or case study discussion. Taken together, this study emphasizes the need for increased attention to the definition and assessment of the goals of research ethics training.