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A Bottom-Up Approach to Building a Culture of Responsible Research and Practice in STEM

The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions (CSEP) at Illinois Institute of Technology has been awarded a three-year, $335,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a project focused on developing ethical cultures in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research. Under the guidance of the project’s principal investigator Elisabeth Hildt, director of CSEP and Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Humanities, and the Co-PIs Kelly Laas, CSEP’s librarian, Eric Brey, Duchossois Leadership Professor and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Christine Miller, Clinical Associate Professor of Innovation at Stuart School of Business, Illinois Tech graduate students in STEM fields will develop discipline and laboratory-specific ethical guidelines aimed at providing support in handling ethical issues important to the lab environments in which they work. The goal of this project is to positively influence researchers’ understanding of ethical research and practice issues, enhance their handling of these issues, and promote an ethical culture in their respective labs and across campus.

The project entitled, “A Bottom-Up Approach to Building a Culture of Responsible Research and Practice in STEM,” focuses on the creation of ethics codes-based guidelines for STEM researchers. Starting from discipline-specific codes of ethics, available through CSEP’s Ethics Codes Collection (graduate students in four different STEM departments at Illinois Tech will develop guidelines on responsible conduct of research (RCR)-related issues they consider of relevance to their laboratory practice. The process of developing these guiding principles will cultivate a high level of ownership in participating students, and help make the guidelines an integral part of the orientation of new lab members.

This is a highly collaborative project with involvement from Armour College’s Departments of Biomedical Engineering (Eric Brey) and Chemical and Biological Engineering (Sohail Murad), and the College of Science’s Departments of Physics (Grant Bunker) and Biology (Andrew Howard).

If you would like to participate in this project, or have questions, please email Kelly Laas.

Publications and Presentations 

Laas, Kelly."Content and Textual Analysis of Ethical Guidelines Developed by Graduate Student Ethics Committees." Baltimore, MD. Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. February 28-March 2, 2019.

Laas, Kelly, Christine Miller, Eric Brey, Elisabeth Hildt and Stephanie Taylor. 2019. "Infusing Ethics in Research Groups: A Bottom-up, Context-Specific Approach. Advances in Engineering Education. Forthcoming.

Hildt, Elisabeth, Kelly Laas, Christine Miller, Stephanie Taylor and Eric Brey. 2019. "Empowering Graduate Students to Address Ethics in Research Environments. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. Forthcoming.   

Hildt, Elisabeth. “A Bottom-Up Approach to Building A Culture of Responsible Research and Practice in STEM.”, Conference of the Cambridge Consortium for Bioethics Education, Paris, July 4-6, 2018.

Laas, Kelly, Elisabeth Hildt, Chris Miller, Stephanie Taylor. “Panel Discussion: Accessing the Baseline Ethical Culture of an Institution: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches and Findings.” Chicago, IL. Association for Practical and Professional Ethics Annual Meeting. March 2, 2018.

Laas, Kelly, Miller, Chris, Ciara Taylor. “Bottom-Up Ethics: Real-world Training for Professional Practice.” Presentation. Chicago, IL: Teaching Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity. March 1, 2018.

Miller, Chris. “Enhancing Ethical STEM Cultures from the Bottom Up.” Presentation. Boise, OH: Boise State Ethnography Program. April 21, 2017.

MIller, Chris. “Ethics in STEM Research and Practice: An NSF Study to Develop a Bottom-Up Approach to Fostering Ethical Cultures.” Presentation. Aurora, IL: Illinois Math and Science Academy. February 22, 2017.

Hildt, Elisabeth, Eric Brey and Kelly Laas. “A Bottom-Up Approach to Building A Culture of Responsible Research and Practice in STEM.” Poster. Washington D.C.:Overcoming Challenges to Infusing Ethics in the Development of Engineers. National Academy of Engineering. January 10-12, 2017.

Brey, E., Laas K., Taylor S., Miller C., Hildt E. A Student-driven Evaluation of Biomedical Engineering Research Ethics and Development of a Questionnaire on Laboratory Environment Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. 2018.