A Bottom-Up Approach to Building a Culture of Responsible Research and Practice in STEM

The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions (CSEP) at Illinois Institute of Technology has recently completed a five-year project funded by the National Science Foundation focused on developing ethical cultures in Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research. Under the guidance of the project’s principal investigator, Elisabeth Hildt, director of CSEP and Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Humanities, and the Co-PIs Kelly Laas, CSEP’s librarian, Eric Brey, Duchossois Leadership Professor and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Christine Miller, Clinical Associate Professor of Innovation at Stuart School of Business, Illinois Tech graduate students in STEM fields developed discipline and laboratory-specific ethical guidelines aimed at providing support in handling ethical issues important to the lab environments in which they work. This project aimed to positively influence researchers’ understanding of ethical research and practice issues, enhance their handling of these issues, and promote an ethical culture in their respective labs and across campus.

The project, "A Bottom-Up Approach to Building a Culture of Responsible Research and Practice in STEM” focused on creating ethics codes-based guidelines for STEM researchers. Starting from discipline-specific codes of ethics, available through CSEP’s Ethics Codes Collection (graduate students in four different STEM departments at Illinois Tech developed guidelines on responsible conduct of research (RCR)-related issues they consider relevant to their laboratory practice. The process of developing these guiding principles cultivated a high level of ownership in participating students and help make the guidelines an integral part of the orientation of new lab members. A guide to leading this workshop is available here.

This is a highly collaborative project involved faculty and students from Armour College’s Departments of Biomedical Engineering (Eric Brey) and Chemical and Biological Engineering (Sohail Murad) and the College of Science’s Departments of Physics (Grant Bunker) and Biology (Andrew Howard).

Publications and Presentations

Hildt, Elisabeth, Kelly Laas, Christine Z. Miller, and Eric M. Brey. 2024. Building Inclusive Ethical Cultures in STEM. Springer International Publishing.

Hildt, Elisabeth, Kelly Laas, Christine Z. Miller, and Stephanie Taylor. 2022. "Student Views on the Culture of STEM Research Laboratories: Results from an Interview Study." Accountability in Research. 31 (2).

Laas, Kelly. Stephanie Taylor, Christine Z. Miller, Eric M. Brey, and Elisabeth Hildt. 2022. "Views on Ethical Issues in Research Labs: A university-wide survey." Accountability in Research. 29 (3).  

Laas, Kelly. "Content and Textual Analysis of Ethical Guidelines Developed by Graduate Student Ethics Committees." Baltimore, MD. Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. February 28-March 2, 2019.

Laas, Kelly, Christine Miller, Eric Brey, Elisabeth Hildt, and Stephanie Taylor. 2019. "Infusing Ethics in Research Groups: A Bottom-up, Context-Specific Approach.” Advances in Engineering Education

Hildt, Elisabeth, Kelly Laas, Christine Miller, Stephanie Taylor, and Eric Brey. 2019. "Empowering Graduate Students to Address Ethics in Research Environments.” Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

Hildt, Elisabeth. “A Bottom-Up Approach to Building A Culture of Responsible Research and Practice in STEM.”, Conference of the Cambridge Consortium for Bioethics Education, Paris, July 4-6, 2018.

Laas, Kelly, Elisabeth Hildt, Chris Miller, Stephanie Taylor. “Panel Discussion: Accessing the Baseline Ethical Culture of an Institution: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches and Findings.” Chicago, IL. Association for Practical and Professional Ethics Annual Meeting. March 2, 2018.

Laas, Kelly, Miller, Chris, Ciara Taylor. “Bottom-Up Ethics: Real-world Training for Professional Practice.” Presentation. Chicago, IL: Teaching Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity. March 1, 2018.

Brey, Eric., Laas, Kelly., Taylor, Stephanie., Miller Chris Z.., Hildt Elisabeth. A Student-driven Evaluation of Biomedical Engineering Research Ethics and Development of a Questionnaire on Laboratory Environment Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. 2018.

Miller, Chris. “Enhancing Ethical STEM Cultures from the Bottom Up.” Presentation. Boise, OH: Boise State Ethnography Program. April 21, 2017.

Miller, Chris. “Ethics in STEM Research and Practice: An NSF Study to Develop a Bottom-Up Approach to Fostering Ethical Cultures.” Presentation. Aurora, IL: Illinois Math and Science Academy. February 22, 2017.

Hildt, Elisabeth, Eric Brey, and Kelly Laas. “A Bottom-Up Approach to Building A Culture of Responsible Research and Practice in STEM.” Poster. Washington D.C.:Overcoming Challenges to Infusing Ethics in the Development of Engineers. National Academy of Engineering. January 10-12, 2017.