The Science, Technology & Society Initiative is leading a multi-disciplinary research team of political and policy scientists with natural and physical scientists and engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to develop, pilot, evaluate, refine, automate and disseminate a set of nine robust education modules designed to advance teaching of the international dimensions of ethics in science and engineering.
Institutional partners on campus include the National Center for Digital Government, the Center for Public Policy and Administration, the Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing, a National Science and Engineering Center for nanoscience andnanotechnology research anddevelopment; the IGERT Program in Nanotechnology Innovation, providing enhanced interdisciplinary training in the development of nanoscale devices and focusing on technology assessment, commercialization and applications; and the Center for Knowledge Communication. Partners at collaborating institutions include the Nanotechnology and Society Research Group at Northeastern University and the Nationwide Nanotechnology Ethics Education Development at the University of New Mexico.
Scientists and engineers face two types of ethics challenges, one focused on their conduct as professionals and the other focused on responsible participation in debates about public regulation of research or application of knowledge. Graduate students in science and engineering increasingly need to learn how international consensus on ethical concerns is forged; how persistent differences in national preferences are handled; and how national governments coordinate regulatory responses to transnational challenges.
Education modules will be organized along two tracks to allow instructors to focus on the ethics of professional conduct, and the impact of globalization on the work practices of scientists and engineers, or ethical participation in the regulatory process, and the impact of international-level regulatory processes on national regulations concerning scientific and engineering knowledge and applications.
Modules will focus on three domains where the international context is particularly important: nanoscience and technology, information technology and environmental sustainability. Module topics include variation in international regulatory processes, workplace ethics in transnational contexts, international accountability, transnational diffusion of ideas and practices, ethical conflicts between nations, responsible participation, stakeholder inclusion, transnational conduct, and social equity.
Modules will be designed for live, web-based, or combined use in science and engineering ethics or societal issues courses and will be evaluated through the use of pilot tests in multiple sites. Modules will be disseminated through the national interactive nano-ethics electronic resource that is being developed at the University of New Mexico as part of NSF grant 0629278 which will be linked directly to the Education and the Social and Ethical Issues in Nanotechnology web portals of the NSF-funded National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN).
Funding for the International Dimensions of Ethics Education in Science and Engineering Project comes from the National Science Foundation through grant number 0734887. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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