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Assessing Role Orientation Among Stem Researchers: The Development Of A Research Role Orientation Inventory

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Outside the Classroom

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.204.1 - 15.204.10



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Paper Authors

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Michael Bowler Michigan Technological University

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Susie Amato-Henderson Michigan Technological University

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Tom Drummer Michigan Technological University

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Joseph Holles Michigan Technological University

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Ted Lockhart Michigan Technological University

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Joanna Schreiber Michigan Technological University

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Debra Charlesworth Michigan Technological University

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Jingfang Ren Michigan Technological University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Assessing Role Orientation Among STEM Researchers: The Development of a Research Role Orientation Inventory

I. Introduction

The concept of professional “roles” is a fundamental component in the study of the professions.1 Kultgen defines roles as “patterns of activity governed by generally shared expectations and performed by replaceable individuals” (pg. 38).1 Bebeau et al. suggests that a professional’s role concept is “a dimension of motivation and commitment which influences the prioritization of professional over personal values” (pg. 32).2 A role orientation inventory is a tool designed to assess one’s professional role concept. Professional role concept is thus recognized as a key aspect in evaluating a person's understanding of and attitude toward the nature of their profession, the role of that profession in society and the constituencies the profession serves. As Bebeau notes, one’s response to an ethical problem partially depends upon how he or she conceptualizes his or her role.2 For this reason, it is used extensively in the investigation of professional integrity and it has become central to the study of professional ethics in fields such as medicine, dentistry, law, and social work, and others. Within the last couple of decades, field- specific instruments for inventorying role orientation have been developed for the purpose of assessing an individual's level of professional integrity as well as for appraising educational programs designed to teach professional ethics.

For the past two decades there has been considerable scholarly disagreement concerning the nature of a profession and professionalism.1,3, 4 A profession encompasses a notion broader than that of a specific functionary of the state, e.g., being a police officer or judge, although these may very well be and usually are considered professions. But it is also less narrow than just any haphazard group of individuals who happen to share some common interest, for instance, a chess club, or fulfill some social function, for example, a non-profit group dedicated to feeding the poor. Most, but not every conception of professionalism understand it to be a form of social institution. As a social institution, members of a profession are seen to play some beneficial role in society.

In this regard, the notion of playing a role is crucial to understanding what it is to be a professional. It indicates that a professional has duties and responsibilities that are associated with their role as a professional, responsibilities and obligations that do not apply to every member of the society. For example, imagine you were medical school dropout and someone came to your door complaining of severe headaches and dizziness. Even if you had the knowledge and means to treat the person, you would not be under the same obligation to help as one who is a professional doctor. We may fault you for not being a particularly caring human being - although these days perhaps you were just worried about a potential lawsuit or running afoul of state licensing requirements, but we would not accuse you of shirking your responsibilities as a doctor. The duties and responsibilities of a professional are typically articulated in a professional code of conduct. Moreover, because of the beneficial role that professionals provide to society they are typically afforded certain privileges. For example, doctors can prescribe medicine.

Bowler, M., & Amato-Henderson, S., & Drummer, T., & Holles, J., & Lockhart, T., & Schreiber, J., & Charlesworth, D., & Ren, J. (2010, June), Assessing Role Orientation Among Stem Researchers: The Development Of A Research Role Orientation Inventory Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16694

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