Citizen-Scientists as Agents of Change: Training the Trainer in the Ethics of Science and Technology


The Reilly Center has received an Ethics Education in Science and Engineering (EESE) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF award 1338652). This grant will allow us to provide training to 15 graduate students per year for three years beginning spring 2015.    

Building upon existing research ethics training opportunities, the University of Notre Dame's Reilly Center will produce science and engineering graduate students who will be models of the ethically engaged citizen-scientist. A select group of fifteen students per year will have the opportunity for advanced training in the ethics of science and technology with a focus on “big picture” or “macro-ethics” issues. Their training starts with an intensive, one-week citizen-scientist ethics boot camp, and is reinforced for the remainder of the academic year with mandatory, follow-on, in-service projects. The students who participate in this train-the-trainer program will take what they learn back into their laboratories, classrooms, professional associations, and on into their own later careers, and through their actions they will serve as models.

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The virtue ethics tradition is the theoretical basis informing the program and will be taught during the one-week citizen-scientist ethics boot camp and revisited when necessary at bi-monthly brown bag sessions. Building upon the notion of virtue as habit that is central to the virtue ethics tradition, and upon the core idea that ethical learning and ethical decision making are based upon modeling the actions of exemplary moral agents, the program puts more emphasis on the practice of individuals as change agents than on the principles of ethics. Pedagogy and morality come together within this framework as aspects of a common task of training new scholars, scientists, and engineers in whose lives habits of ethical engagement become an integral part of their work as scientists and engineers.

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The overarching goal of this project is to create Agents of Change who will serve as trainers themselves. The graduate students will convey what they have learned to others through in-service projects that engage their colleagues, students, and professional, local, and national communities. They will also have ample opportunities to disseminate their learning both on- and off-campus through already established campus programs as well.

Thorough assessments of the students within the program will be undertaken as is expected of recipients of NSF Ethics Education in Science and Engineering (EESE) grants. Surveys will measure each student’s learning while they participate in the program as well as collect feedback from participants on the program’s perceived value.


Principal Investigator: Don Howard, Professor of Philosophy and a former Director of the Reilly Center (from 2011-2014)

Co-principaI Investigator: Melinda Gormley

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Other support 

This NSF award is connected to a second NSF award supporting a research project and training program. For more information, see Cultivating Leaders for Ethical STEM

This project aims to produce a new generation of student researchers and thought leaders by creating scientists and engineers who, through habit, consider the ethical aspects of their work. These Agents of Change will become models of ethics engagement for their own future students and professional peers. 

Note: this page is archived from the initial receipt of the award.  

To learn about the actual program funded by this award, see the SRR page

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