1887

Rethinking the Meaning of Ethics in RCR Education

    Author: Mary L. Devereaux1
    VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: University of California, San Diego, Research Ethics Program, Department of Pathology, La Jolla, CA 92093-0612
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 15 December 2014
    • Corresponding author. Mailing address: Research Ethics Program, Department of Pathology, University of California – San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093. Tel: 858-822-5764. Fax: 858-822-5765. E-mail: mdevereaux@ucsd.edu.
    • ©2014 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 165-168. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.857
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    Abstract:

    Training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR) is meant to ensure that federally funded scientists have the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to conduct science in line with agreed upon scientific norms and ethical principles. At its institutional best, RCR education begins early, with reinforcement in subsequent stages of career development. Studies suggest, however, that scientists perceive the push to think about ethical matters negatively, narrowly equating ethics with burdensome oversight and regulation, or with controversies in a few highly charged areas. For their part, RCR instructors contribute to this narrow conception of ethics education by placing disproportionate emphasis on the misconduct of the few and its career-destroying consequences. The result is an ethics that is both individualistic and uncritical, an ethics incapable of explaining the threat to scientific integrity posed by a rigidly hierarchical distribution of power, severe competition for funding, a “winner takes all” credit system, and many other features of ordinary science. What is needed is a broader, richer conception of ethics, one that focuses not only on individual instances of misconduct, but also on the growing gap between the normative ideals of science and its institutional reward systems.

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References & Citations

1. Committee on Assessing Integrity in Research Environments, National Research Council, Institute of Medicine.2002Integrity in scientific research: creating an environment that promotes responsible conduct.[Online.] http://iom.edu/Reports/2002/Integrity-in-Scientific-Research-Creating-an-Environment-That-Promotes-Responsible-Conduct.aspx
2. Keith-Spiegel P, Sieber J, Koocher GP2010Responding to research wrongdoing: a user-friendly guide.[Online.] http://www.ethicsresearch.com/freeresources/rrwresearchwrongdoing.html
3. Macrina FL2014Scientific integrity: text and cases in responsible conduct of research4th edASM PressWashington, DC
4. McCormick JB, Boyce AM, Ladd JM, Cho MK2012Barriers to considering ethical and societal implications of research: perceptions of life scientists.AJOB Primary Res.33405010.1080/21507716.2012.680651 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21507716.2012.680651
5. National Institutes of HealthUpdate on the requirement for instruction in the responsible conduct of research.2011[Online.] http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-10-019.html. Accessed 8 September 2014
6. National Science Foundation.Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).[Online.] http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/rcr.jsp. Accessed 8 September 2014
7. Redman BK2013Research misconduct policy in biomedicine: beyond the bad-apple approachMIT PressCambridge, MA15151152
8. Resnik DB, Dinse GE2012Do U.S. research institutions meet or exceed federal mandates for instruction in responsible conduct of research? A national surveyAcad Med871237124210.1097/ACM.0b013e318260fe5c228368353430795 http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0b013e318260fe5c
9. Resnik DB2014Does RCR education make students more ethical, and is this the right question to ask?Account. Res.21421121710.1080/08989621.2013.848800244227013965192 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08989621.2013.848800
10. Sheltzer JM, Smith JC2014Elite male faculty in the life sciences employ fewer womenPNAS111101071011210.1073/pnas.1403334111249821674104900 http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1403334111
11. Steneck NH2006Fostering integrity in research: definitions, current knowledge, and future directions.Sci. Eng. Ethics1215310.1007/s11948-006-0006-y16501647 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11948-006-0006-y
12. Wolpe PR2006Reasons scientists avoid thinking about ethics.Cell12661023102510.1016/j.cell.2006.06.001 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2006.06.001
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.857
2014-12-15
2017-09-23

Abstract:

Training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR) is meant to ensure that federally funded scientists have the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to conduct science in line with agreed upon scientific norms and ethical principles. At its institutional best, RCR education begins early, with reinforcement in subsequent stages of career development. Studies suggest, however, that scientists perceive the push to think about ethical matters negatively, narrowly equating ethics with burdensome oversight and regulation, or with controversies in a few highly charged areas. For their part, RCR instructors contribute to this narrow conception of ethics education by placing disproportionate emphasis on the misconduct of the few and its career-destroying consequences. The result is an ethics that is both individualistic and uncritical, an ethics incapable of explaining the threat to scientific integrity posed by a rigidly hierarchical distribution of power, severe competition for funding, a “winner takes all” credit system, and many other features of ordinary science. What is needed is a broader, richer conception of ethics, one that focuses not only on individual instances of misconduct, but also on the growing gap between the normative ideals of science and its institutional reward systems.

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