A randomized trial of a lab-embedded discourse intervention to improve research ethics

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Jan 21;117(3):1389-1394. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1917848117. Epub 2020 Jan 9.


We report a randomized trial of a research ethics training intervention designed to enhance ethics communication in university science and engineering laboratories, focusing specifically on authorship and data management. The intervention is a project-based research ethics curriculum that was designed to enhance the ability of science and engineering research laboratory members to engage in reason giving and interpersonal communication necessary for ethical practice. The randomized trial was fielded in active faculty-led laboratories at two US research-intensive institutions. Here, we show that laboratory members perceived improvements in the quality of discourse on research ethics within their laboratories and enhanced awareness of the relevance and reasons for that discourse for their work as measured by a survey administered over 4 mo after the intervention. This training represents a paradigm shift compared with more typical module-based or classroom ethics instruction that is divorced from the everyday workflow and practices within laboratories and is designed to cultivate a campus culture of ethical science and engineering research in the very work settings where laboratory members interact.

Keywords: authorship; data management; randomized trial; research ethics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.