NSF Requires Ethics Education: Research Ethics in the News

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will require all institutions applying for funding to provide ethics education for grantees. The new requirement, reported in the Federal Register [August 20, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 160), 42126-42128], will go into effect on January 4, 2010. At that time, grant proposals to NSF must describe “a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers participating in the proposed research project.”

Bob Grant at The Scientist acquired comments from John Galland and John Dahlberg (from the Office of Research Integrity) on the news. Galland pointed to the difference between the NSF and the NIH approach to encouraging the responsible conduct of research. Both Galland and Dahlberg see research ethics education as a wise investment, but Dahlberg cautions, “There are still going to be bad actors.”

During the public comment period the new guidelines received 188 comments, many of these included concerns about training guidance and access to online resources. In response, the NSF points to existing and recently NSF funded ethics education resources, including:

Also see a report detailing the results of an NSF workshop on ethics education is available from the National Academy of Engineering:

National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Ethics Education and Scientific and Engineering Research: What’s Been Learned? What Should Be Done? Summary of a Workshop at the National Academies Keck Center, August 25–26, 2008. Available from: http://www.nae.edu/?ID=14646

Other Research Ethics News

Roger Collier. Prevalence of ghostwriting spurs calls for transparency. CMAJ. September 9, 2009.

Karen J. Maschke. Disputes over Research with Residual Newborn Screening Blood Specimens. Bioethics Forum. September 8, 2009.

Andrew Pollack. First Stem Cell Drug Fails 2 Late-Stage Clinical Trials. The New York Times. September 8, 2009.

Public Health Association (NZ). Maori team produce new ethical research guidelines. Scoop. September 3, 2009.

Katherine Harmon. Should Doctors Disclose Conflicts of Interest to Trial Patients? Scientific American. August 27, 2009.

– J.O.


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