The article below is from the ORI Newsletter (June 2016, v23, no2).
Do you have thoughts on this topic? Please share them in the comment section below.
Thoughts on Social Responsibility and RCR
by Sandra Titus, PH.D.
In 2009, NIH updated the list of RCR training stipulations and directed institutions with training grants to consider developing educational material which would focus on “the scientist as a responsible member of society, contemporary ethical issues in biomedical research, and the environmental and societal impacts of scientific research.”
What do you focus on when trying to lead a discussion with students on social responsibility? We will post this question on the ORI blog and hope you will participate with your thoughts on it.
A possible way to discuss it might stem from the recent publication by AAAS Science and Human Rights Commission. They posted research results from an international pilot study on scientists, health professionals, and engineers, which focused on their perceptions and the scope of their responsibilities.
These questions collectively examine the scientific community’s views on individual responsibilities to the larger society. Over 2000 professionals evaluated the ten items on a Likert scale and indicated how important each behavior was in their own lives.
The items listed below collapsed the scores into the portion that perceived the item to be of high value, versus those who did not think the item relevant to themselves. This table therefore illustrates the extent to which the items are valuable to some degree; importance ranged from a high of 95.8 to a low of 82.
Those younger felt more concerned about explaining their work to the public, whereas older subjects felt great concern if they suspected research misconduct. There were no gender differences. The responses from the three disciplines were similar to each other; regions of the world had differences with other regions, but those in a region were congruent with others from their region. AAAS plans to do additional research on this topic, and they leave us with several areas to consider:
- How do scientists view minimizing risk versus maximizing benefits?
- What influences perceptions – the impact from public, domestic, legal, disciplinary, institutions?
- How do we establish priorities (if at all) among responsibilities?
- How do views on the cultivation of the next generation influence them, and is this, too, a social responsibility?
Would trainees engage in such a discussion? How would trainees be likely to perceive themselves on
this set of values, and how would they compare with the scientists’ scoring? Do they think their views will change over time? What are the barriers they see in implementing these values?