Author: Sara Burke, 2002
Contributors: Dena Plemmons and Michael Kalichman, 2005-2010

Research Ethics Courses

One of the most common formats for delivering instruction is courses, consisting of repeated meetings generally with a lecture and discussion approach. Such courses:

Such course instruction allows for a more thorough development of basic ethical principles, and can expose students to a wide variety of ethical problems and situations. Additionally, relationships among students can facilitate deeper and more diverse thinking about some of the ethical issues being discussed in the course. A primary disadvantage is the length of time necessary for such courses; participants may be unable or unwilling to commit to a fixed meeting time for many weeks.

Ethics Across the Curriculum

The premise of the Ethics Across the Curriculum or Ethics In the Curriculum format is that ethical considerations in research, scholarship and practice should not be separated from other parts of the curricula across different disciplines and fields. The features of such programs are:

This is an integrative approach to teaching research ethics, and allows the student to understand ethical practices from within specific fields and disciplines. A disadvantage of this approach is that it does not normally allow for developing more basic ethical principles nor detailed analyses of different kinds of ethical situations.


Responsible Conduct of Research and Related Policy Issues
Columbia University

This course, which began in 1993, was designed for graduate students, and is presented annually in the spring term. This course explores a broad range of ethical and policy issues in research. Content is organized into 11 one-hour sessions, facilitated by different speakers, on such topics as authorship practices, human subjects in research, humane and responsible use of animals in research, scientific citizenship, access to research tools, “real life” ethical dilemmas, and mentoring. Scientific Integrity by F.L. Macrina is used as the course text, and readings are assigned for each topic. Course sessions include lectures, discussions, and analyses of case studies, and grade is determined by attendance and class participation. While developed for internal use, there are no restrictions in accessing or printing the site information, but author’s permission and appropriate source citation are required for use. There are no fees.

Contact information:
Jaime S. Rubin, Ph.D.
Mailman School of Public Health Building
4th Floor
722 West 168th Street
New York, NY 10032-3702
tel: 212.342.0021

Ethics and Survival Skills in Academia
University of California, San Diego

Designed for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers and presented annually since 1996, this 10-week course presents Responsible Conduct of Research topics in the context of academic “survival skills” (e.g., grant writing, giving talks, and finding a job). While the primary objective of the course is to provide ideas and resources to support achievement of academic and career goals, the ethics component can also be used to satisfy the NIH training grant requirement for instruction in Responsible Conduct of Research. Topics include mentoring; academic duty; research team management and leadership; experiment design; data collection, ownership, and sharing; teaching and presentation skills; scientific and grant writing; ethics for authors, reviewers, and editors; conflict of interest; career options, networking, productivity, and tenure. Each session consists of lecture, small group discussion, and assignments. Successful completion requires attendance, moderating and submitting an email case discussion topic, participating in all 5 email case discussion groups, and submission of a final case analysis paper. Updated annually, the course syllabus, assignments, and guidelines for case moderation and discussion are available online. Access is unrestricted, and there are no fees, but author permission and appropriate source citation are required for use.

Scientific Ethics
University of California, San Diego

Presented yearly since 1994, this 10-week course is designed specifically to review RCR topics. Each topic includes lecture, online text, assigned readings in the course text Scientific Integrity by Francis Macrina, supplemental readings available online or in the library, class discussion, written assignments, and Email discussion groups. Attendance, participation in discussion groups, and completion of assignments provide the basis for credit. Topics include introductory sessions on regulations, guidelines, ethics, and ethical decision-making as well as in depth sessions on data management, human subjects research, collaboration and mentoring in science, animal subjects research, publication and peer review, genetic technology issues, and conflict of interest. With the exception of the required text, the course syllabus and many other resources are available online. Access is unrestricted, and there are no fees.

Contact information:
Michael Kalichman, Ph.D.
Director, Research Ethics Program

University of California, San Diego
Research Ethics Program
Office of Graduate Studies and Research, MC-0003
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0003

Scientific Integrity
Virginia Commonwealth University

This 16-week course, presented yearly since 1986, presents Responsible Conduct of Research topics in conjunction with the text Scientific Integrity. The course is organized around strategies to promote a learning environment of classroom interactions where students apply principles of responsible scientific conduct to solve discussion case problems. Discussion and writing assignments are used to monitor student accomplishment. Topics include introductory material, the VCU honor system, scientific record-keeping, data ownership and intellectual property issues, conflict of interest, mentoring, use of animals in research, authorship and peer review, human subjects research issues, genetic technology, and collaborative research. Other than the text, all materials are available online. Reading the site material is unrestricted, but author’s permission and appropriate source citation required for use, and download and printing are restricted. There are no fees.

Contact information:
Francis L. Macrina, Ph.D.
Course Director

High School Bioethics Project
University of Pennsylvania

In 2001, the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics developed online curriculum supplements to help high school teachers integrate bioethical concepts into high school science courses. Topics covered include the History of Bioethics, Gene Therapy, Genetic Privacy, Gene Patenting, Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Each topic includes educational objectives, core ethics issues, background discussion, resources, and references. There is an area for teachers to exchange lesson plans and teaching resources. The High School Bioethics Project at Penn also hosts teacher and student workshops and intensive bioethics courses. Faculty and staff from the Center are available as guest lecturers and curriculum development consultants.

Contact information:
University of Pennsylvania
Center for Bioethics
3401 Market Street
Suite 320
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum

The purpose of the society is to promote ethics in scholarship, exchange of research information, and the teaching of ethics in all academic disciplines. This site offers links to resources for ethics across the curriculum, a link to their publication Teaching Ethics, and information about their annual conference. The society meets annually for four days of educational activities, with meetings hosted by different institutional members. The theme for each annual meeting varies, but session proposals on other topics related to ethics across the curriculum are always welcomed.

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