by Judith Curry
I have been pondering how to best teach research ethics to incoming graduate students and to meet the new NSF guidelines. While googling around, I found an interesting document from the Department of Meteorology at Penn State.
In response to the requirements of the America Competes Act (background here), the U.S. National Science Foundation is requiring that students and postdocs participating in NSF funded research receive training in the responsible conduct of research. From their website:
This page provides resources on NSF’s implementation of Section 7009 of the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act. The responsible and ethical conduct of research (RCR) is critical for excellence, as well as public trust, in science and engineering. Consequently, education in RCR is considered esential in the preparation of future scientists and engineers.
“The Director shall require that each institution that applies for financial assistance from the Foundation for science and engineering research or education describe in its grant proposal 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.”
I wholeheartedly applaud this initiative/requirement. It is clearly insufficient to train students to be specialists in science and technology; ethics and social responsibilities are as important as scientific skills and understanding.
Georgia Tech’s guidelines for meeting the requirements are [here].
Penn State guidelines
While pondering how to best implement this for the students in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, I was googling around to see what other universities were doing.
I found this interesting document from the Department of Meteorology at Penn State: Development and Ethics as a Researcher in the Atmospheric Sciences Meteo 591. There is some good stuff here.
About halfway through the document Week 3 – Interfaces with Society, I found a case study associated with the hockeystick:
*Government Interference (The Case of the Unwanted Hockey Stick):
http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=9932 http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/050825_intersociety_let.html http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptic_arguments/fakeddata.html
I clicked on all three links, the Prospect link doesn’t go anywhere. This seems to be the appropriate link. The upshot is that these three links seem to reflect the hockey stick wars from Mann’s perspective.
Learning from climategate and the hockey stick
I had also planned on using the hockey stick as a case study, but in the context of climategate. In particular, I think Steve McIntyre’s essay related to his Heartland talk on Climategate and Hide the Decline introduces a whole host of ethical issues that students can learn from by considering the various dilemmas and judgments made by the scientists.
While I can’t exactly tell what the Penn State students were exposed to in this regard, the ” government interference,” the dismissal of M&M in the links, etc., gives a pretty good indication.
Well, the Georgia Tech Earth and Atmospheric Science students will be exposed to something different, regarding climategate and the hockey stick. They will be given links to my three climategate essays:
- On the credibility of climate science
- An open letter to graduate students and young scientists in fields related to climate research
- On the credibility of climate research, Part II: Towards rebuilding trust
They will also be encouraged to read the posts at climate etc. under the ethics tag. Regarding the hockey stick, they will be exposed to both versions: Penn State, and McIntyre’s view. They will also be reading this thread to get a sense of the “factions,” diversity of perspectives, and overall complexity of this issue.
Moderation note: The combination of hockeystick, Penn State, Mann, and McIntyre in one post may be combustible in terms of provoking inflammatory comments. Don’t. The students will be reading this. Keep your comments thoughtful and constructive, and keep the noise to a minimum, please. Thank you in advance for your constructive ideas on teaching ethics to students involved in climate research.