A National Science Foundation grant has been awarded to investigator Lisa Lee, Department of Population Health Sciences.


Given the serious and wide-ranging implications of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) research, it is important that STEM practitioners conduct research in a responsible manner. However, is unclear whether existing approaches to RCR (responsible conduct of research) education (1) help practitioners to identify and address ethical issues in their own research, (2) are relevant to researchers across the disciplinary spectrum, or (3) contribute to the development of more responsible, ethically-attuned research institutions and environments. To address these issues and foster cultures of responsible research, this project will leverage the disciplinary expertise and social networks of STEM faculty to empower them to engage with ethical issues in their own research fields. It will result in programs that better engage and are more relevant to a broader range of STEM practitioners, thereby helping to ensure that the results of STEM research better serve social interests.

The goal of this project is to transform cultures of responsible research throughout Virginia Tech, developing a research-based model of peer-to-peer RCR education that can ultimately be used beyond the university. To do so, this project consists in (1) conducting research on ethics expertise, self-efficacy, and research climates among STEM faculty and (2) developing educational interventions, empowering researchers to engage with ethical issues in their own work. To ensure interventions have an institutional impact, the project will conduct research on social norms in faculty networks, leveraging these results to ensure perspectives on and practices in RCR come to have the broadest possible impact. This project is novel in three main ways: it (1) develops faculty expertise in ethics, so they can proactively identity and address discipline-specific ethical issues that arise in their everyday research; (2) improves faculty self-efficacy in ethics, so they can confidently communicate about research ethics; (3) leverages faculty social networks, ensuring a model of responsible research education that is scalable, sustainable, and transferable. Team members will leverage their leadership positions in professional organizations and relationships in government to promote the merits and facilitate the adoption of this program elsewhere. The project will also encourage faculty, especially those participating in our intervention programs, to share this model with their networks outside Virginia Tech through cross-institutional research collaborations and academic engagement with industry.

This project is jointly funded through the ER2 program by the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, the Directorate for Engineering, and the Directorate for STEM Education (NSF ADVANCE program in the Division of Equity for Excellence in STEM).

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.