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Testing For Ethical Sensitivity To Responsible Conduct Of Research Among Multi National Stem Researchers

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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

15.1200.1 - 15.1200.13



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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

Testing for Ethical Sensitivity to Responsible Conduct of Research among Multi-National STEM Researchers

I. Introduction

The "Four Component Model" of moral behavior developed by Rest,1, 2, 3 and applied to professional ethics by Bebeau4 and others argues that ethical behavior is a consequence of four factors: (1) ethical sensitivity, (2) ethical judgment, (3) ethical motivation and commitment, and (4) ethical character and competence. The majority of theoretical and pedagogical research in the field of Ethics Education in Science and Engineering (EESE) has centered on ethical judgment.5 Significantly, relatively little work has been done on ethical sensitivity in EESE even though ethical sensitivity provides an individual with the range of concrete considerations upon which that person makes ethical judgments. Ethical sensitivity determines an individual's ability to recognize in any given situation what ethical issues are at stake, the possible consequences of actions, the rights and obligations of the individuals involved, and the ethical principles that are pertinent to the situation. In this regard, ethical sensitivity precedes ethical judgment. Moreover, an individual's ethical sensitivity determines to a significant extent the range and boundary of his or her ability to make appropriate ethical judgments.

The Four Component Model has been used extensively in the study of professional ethics and in the design, development and assessment of programs geared toward professional ethics training and education. It is only relatively recently that it has begun to be used in the study of the responsible conduct of research (RCR). In recent years, two instruments for measuring ethical sensitivity in science and engineering have been developed, namely, the Test of Ethical Sensitivity in Science and Engineering (TESSE) developed by Borenstein, et al.6 and the Test for Ethical Sensitivity in Science (TESS) by Clarkeburn.7 Although both investigated ethical sensitivity to issues arising from out of science and engineering, neither focused primarily on assessing ethical sensitivity of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) researchers to the responsible conduct of research.

As part of an NSF sponsored project we have designed an instrument for testing the ethical sensitivity of STEM researchers to situations involving RCR. One of the significant hurdles faced by those wishing to develop such an instrument is that STEM researchers, even those residing and working in the U.S., represent a distinctly diverse group. Possible confounding variables include native language, education, or literacy. For example, one important issue in this regard is that STEM researchers’ fluency in English can vary widely. This is crucial in testing for ethical sensitivity given that these tests typically rely on an individual's ability to read, interpret and respond to a vignette. We have designed an ethical sensitivity instrument that attempts to mitigate some of these factors, thus giving us a more accurate assessment of an individual's ethical sensitivity to RCR.

Our key insight in this regard was that measuring ethical sensitivity to RCR by having participants respond in English to vignettes written in English that involve issues related to

Bowler, M., & Amato-Henderson, S., & Drummer, T., & Holles, J., & Lockhart, T., & Schreiber, J., & Charlesworth, D., & Ren, J. (2010, June), Testing For Ethical Sensitivity To Responsible Conduct Of Research Among Multi National Stem Researchers Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16721

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