Addressing Ethical Issues in the Natural Course of Research
Our project was an innovative, NSF-funded (#SES-0933810) joint research course for PhD students in engineering, science, and science studies, that is, philosophy, history, and sociology of science. Offered successively in the autumn semesters of 2010, 2011, and 2012, this full three credit course was designed to prepare students for engaging in multidisciplinary research and for addressing ethical issues in the natural course of research. The course was hosted by the Illinois Institute of Technology, but some students and faculty were recruited from other local universities. The format consisted of weekly three hour seminars, covering a series of topics, followed by a period of joint research across disciplinary boundaries. In the last week of the research period and the final three weeks of the semester, small student research groups present their research reports for critiquing by the instructors and the other students. Each student group included at least one science or engineering student and one science studies student.The sustained critiquing is to help the students produce publishable papers.
The course aimed to provide to science studies students acquaintance with concrete details of scientific research and give science and engineering students opportunities to deal with issues, such as the range of values within science. The goal was to help students acquire a view of science, engineering, and science studies that makes the social and normative aspects of each an essential and valuable part of their understanding of their own respective disciplines and opportunities. After the first seminar on the readings, led by the faculty, small cross-disciplinary groups of students took responsibility for the presentations on the readings and led the discussion following.The readings were drawn from the writings of science studies scholars, scientists, and engineers, and the topics ranged from Diversity and Cooperation to Models and Causality.
The faculty consisted of Vivian Weil, Illinois Tech, ethics, (PI); Sandra Bishnoi, University of Texas, chemistry, (CoPI); Eric Brey, Illinois Tech, biomedical engineering, (CoPI); Jordi Cat, Indiana University, philosophy of science (CoPI); Alan Feinerman, University of Illinois (UIC), electrical engineering (2010 only); Nick Huggett, UIC, philosophy of science (2011 and 2012). Another special feature of the course was assessment of the concept, design, and implementation by an independent panel with expertise in science, engineering, and philosophy of science. Their assessment contributed to the planning for course offerings in 2011 and 2012.