Research, Ethics, and Society


Air Bags
Clinical Research
Engineers Without Borders
Green Revolution
Human Terrain System
Hurricane Katrina
Union of Concerned Scientists


Between 2010-2013, this NSF-funded project—Developing and Assessing Macroethics Modules for the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Courses—built instructional materials on social responsibilities of researchers for this online resource. These responsibilities grow from public expectations that researchers will act in the public interest; they can range from spending public research funds wisely to anticipating issues that may arise from outcomes of research and innovation. A foundation text, accessible through CITI, explains why researchers have social responsibilities and outlines ways researchers can act in the public’s interests. In the materials available here, the Discussion Guide summarizes the foundation text and eight cases introduce historical episodes in which research or researchers impacted public interests.

The goals of the cases are to motivate interest in social responsibility in research, illustrate ways researchers can act on social responsibilities, and explore context as an important factor in understanding technological change and social responsibilities. The cases are available through CITI as links from the foundation text, and they are posted in the OEC. They can be accessed via the Cases Summary Page in hopes that more people will find them, read them, and use them in class or other group discussions.

The cases present situations in which scientists, engineers, and the knowledge and innovations resulting from their work are tangled up in questions of public interests. While the cases neither define social responsibility nor provide an account of why such responsibilities exist, they open up such questions. They also illustrate several ways that science and engineering students and practitioners may take action on social responsibilities.

Project team

  • Karin Ellison, Arizona State University, PI
  • Heather Canary, University of Utah, Co-PI
  • Joe Herkert, Arizona State University, Co-PI
  • Jameson Wetmore, Arizona State University, Co-PI
  • Karen Wellner, Arizona State University, Faculty Associate
  • Ira Bennett, Arizona State University, Consultant
  • Jason Borenstein, Georgia Institute of Technology, Consultant

 Advisory board

  • Joan Brett, Arizona State University, Social Sciences
  • Jim Svara, Arizona State University, Social Sciences
  • Rick Fish, North Carolina State University, Life Sciences,
  • Juergen Gadau, Life Sciences, Arizona State University
  • Shelli McAlpine, University of New South Wales, Physical Sciences
  • Tim Newman, University of Dundee, Physical Sciences
  • Byron Newberry, Baylor University, Engineering
  • Pat Phelan, Arizona State University, Engineering
  • Petra Schroeder, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Research Administration

Acknowledgement and disclaimer

These cases are based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1033111. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Cite this page: "Research, Ethics, and Society" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 10/2/2013 OEC Accessed: Tuesday, June 23, 2020 <>