A New Method for a Virtue-Based Responsible Conduct of Research Curriculum: Pilot Test Results

  • Eric BerlingEmail author
  • Chet McLeskey
  • Michael O’Rourke
  • Robert T. Pennock
Original Paper


Drawing on Pennock’s theory of scientific virtues, we are developing an alternative curriculum for training scientists in the responsible conduct of research (RCR) that emphasizes internal values rather than externally imposed rules. This approach focuses on the virtuous characteristics of scientists that lead to responsible and exemplary behavior. We have been pilot-testing one element of such a virtue-based approach to RCR training by conducting dialogue sessions, modeled upon the approach developed by Toolbox Dialogue Initiative, that focus on a specific virtue, e.g., curiosity and objectivity. During these structured discussions, small groups of scientists explore the roles they think the focus virtue plays and should play in the practice of science. Preliminary results have shown that participants strongly prefer this virtue-based model over traditional methods of RCR training. While we cannot yet definitively say that participation in these RCR sessions contributes to responsible conduct, these pilot results are encouraging and warrant continued development of this virtue-based approach to RCR training.


Scientific integrity Scientific virtues Science ethics Scientific misconduct Responsible conduct of research RCR training Research integrity Toolbox Dialogue Initiative 



This material is based upon work supported by Grants to Pennock by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement No. DBI-0939454 and by the John Templeton Foundation under Cooperative Agreement No. 42023. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the John Templeton Foundation. O’Rourke’s work on this paper was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch Project No. MICL02261. We thank two anonymous referees for helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lyman Briggs College and Department of PhilosophyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Center for InterdisciplinarityMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Philosophy, AgBio Research, Center for InterdisciplinarityMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  4. 4.Lyman Briggs College and Departments of Philosophy and Computer Science & EngineeringMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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