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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    By ‘scientific virtues’ we do not mean virtues that were determined scientifically, but rather those character traits that are conducive to the exemplary practice of science. We use ‘scientific virtue’ similarly to how one might speak of engineering virtues or medical virtues.

References

  1. Ainley, M., & Ainley, J. (2011). Student engagement with science in early adolescence. The contribution of enjoyment to students’ continuing interest in learning about science. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 36(1), 4–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Antes, A. L., Wang, X., Mumford, M. D., Brown, R. P., Connelly, S., & Devenport, L. D. (2010). Evaluating the effects that existing instruction on responsible conduct of research has on ethical decision making. Academic Medicine, 85(3), 519.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bebeau, M. J., Rest, J. R., & Narvaez, D. (1999). Beyond the promise: A perspective on research in moral education. Educational Researcher, 28(4), 18–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Brown, S., & Kalichman, M. W. (1998). Effects of training in the responsible conduct of research: A survey of graduate students in experimental sciences. Science and Engineering Ethics, 4, 487–498.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Chen, J. (2016). Research as profession and practice: Frameworks for guiding the responsible conduct of research. Accountability in Research, 23(6), 351–373.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. De Vries, R., Anderson, M. S., & Martinson, B. C. (2006). Normal misbehavior: Scientists talk about the ethics of research. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 1(1), 43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). (2013). Proposals for Safeguarding good scientific practiceRecommendations of the commission on professional self-regulation in science. http://www.dfg.de/foerderung/grundlagen_rahmenbedingungen/gwp. Accessed 27 May 2017.

  8. DuBois, J. M. (2004). Is compliance a professional virtue of researchers? Reflections on promoting the responsible conduct of research. Ethics and Behavior, 14(4), 383–395.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. DuBois, J. M., & Dueker, J. M. (2009). Teaching and assessing the responsible conduct of research: A Delphi consensus panel report. The Journal of Research Administration, 40(1), 49.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (FNR). (2010). FNR Research integrity guidelines. http://storage.fnr.lu/index.php/s/E5PEHgLc0hcOnXE/download.

  11. Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafar, N., Jordt, H., et al. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(23), 8410–8415.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hafferty, F. W., & Frank, R. (1994). The hidden curriculum, ethics teaching, and the structure of medical education. Academic Medicine, 69(11), 861–871.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Han, H. (2015). Virtue ethics, positive psychology, and a new model of science and engineering ethics education. Science and Engineering Ethics, 21(2), 441–460.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Horbach, S. P. J., & Halffman, W. (2016). Promoting virtue or punishing fraud: Mapping contrasts in the language of ‘scientific integrity’. Science and Engineering Ethics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-016-9858-y.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Kristjánsson, K. (2014). Phronesis and moral education: Treading beyond the truisms. Theory and Research in Education, 12(2), 151–171. https://doi.org/10.1177/1477878514530244.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Looney, C., Donovan, S., O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S., Eigenbrode, S. D., Rotschy, L., et al. (2013). Seeing through the eyes of collaborators: Using toolbox workshops to enhance cross-disciplinary communication. In M. O’Rourke, S. Crowley, S. D. Eigenbrode, & J. D. Wulfhorst (Eds.), Enhancing communication and collaboration in interdisciplinary research (pp. 220–243). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  17. National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). (2014). Code of Federal Regulations Title 2: Grants and Agreement Part 422 Sections 2, 3, and 8. https://nifa.usda.gov/responsible-and-ethical-conduct-research.

  18. National Institute of Health (NIH). (2009). NIH update on the requirement for instruction in the responsible conduct of research. NOT-OD-10-019. https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-10-019.html. Accessed June 14, 2016.

  19. National Science Foundation (NSF). (2007). 21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007: Responsible Conduct of Research Section 7009. Responsible Conduct of Research. https://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/rcr.jsp.

  20. O’Rourke, M., & Crowley, S. (2013). Philosophical intervention and cross-disciplinary science: The story of the Toolbox Project. Synthese, 190, 1937–1954.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Pennock, R. T. (2002). Research funding and the virtue of scientific objectivity. Academic Integrity, 5(2), 3–6.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Pennock, R. T. (2006). Scientific integrity and science museums. Museums and Social Issues, 1(1), 7–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Pennock, R. T. (2015). Fostering a culture of scientific integrity: Legalistic vs. scientific virtue-based approaches. Professional Ethics Report, 28(2), 1–3.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Pennock, R. T. (2018). Beyond research ethics: How scientific virtue theory reframes and extends responsible conduct of research. In D. Carr (Ed.), Character and virtue in professional ethics and practice. New York: Routledge.

  25. Pennock, R. T., & O’Rourke, M. (2017). Developing a scientific virtue-based approach to science ethics training. Science and Engineering Ethics, 23(1), 243–262.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Plemmons, D., Brody, S., & Kalichman, M. (2006). Student perceptions of the effectiveness of education in the responsible conduct of research. Science and Engineering Ethics, 12(3), 571–582.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eric Berling.

Appendix

Appendix

These are sample curiosity prompts that figured into the workshops from which our data derive. It was developed collaboratively by all of the co-authors.

  • One of the greatest sources of happiness is the satisfaction of one’s curiosity.

  • Exemplary scientists would rank curiosity as one of science’s highest values.

  • A biased scientist is not a curious scientist.

  • Curiosity that does not lead to application has no value.

  • A curious scientist values truth over career advancement.

  • A curious scientist is a rigorously skeptical scientist.

  • Fabricating data is compatible with scientific curiosity.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Berling, E., McLeskey, C., O’Rourke, M. et al. A New Method for a Virtue-Based Responsible Conduct of Research Curriculum: Pilot Test Results. Sci Eng Ethics 25, 899–910 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-017-9991-2

Download citation

Keywords

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