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Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants
Abstract of "New Tools to Address Responsible Conduct of Nanobiotechnological Research"
Daniel A. Vallero
Duke University, Durham, NC 27708
As reported in 2007, a team of engineers, scientists, ethicists, and educational specialists have been enhancing Duke's Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) program to ensure that graduate-level researchers in emerging fields are adequately prepared when confronted with macroethical issues associated with nanobiotechnologies. The focus has been research being conducted in the Center for Biologically Inspired Materials and Material Systems and the Center for Biological Tissue Engineering. Presently, RCR at most institutions addresses methodological ethics of the individual researcher or practitioner; i.e., microethical issues. This project has employed an action-learning model to inform researchers engaged in collaboration with the researchers themselves who are engaging in emerging technologies and has begun to be incorporated into our comprehensive RCR training. The innovations in pedagogy associated with this project include modalities that are potentially more effective in approaching the macroethical issues. The project is developing, implementing, and assessing multiple pedagogical modes for micro- and macroethical training to optimize ethical content and consciousness within the graduate experience at Duke and other research institutions. Success of the efficacy of the teaching micro- and macroethical training has been assessed from the perspective of key dimensions of ethical learning, namely, (i) knowledge or awareness of ethically relevant issues and considerations, (ii) reasoning and reflection skills that lead to thoughtful conclusions about what ought to be done, and (iii) motivation and will to act in accordance with one's judgment about the right, or best, thing to do. The first two dimensions were assessed through pre- and postworkshop surveys. The third dimension will be assessed through tools that collect feedback from the participants' research community. The major findings to date are (i) thematic keynotes in workshops and seminars set the tone for participant engagement; (ii) code writing and case analysis effectively frame discussions and increase graduate student participation; (iii) bench-side consultation is an untested tool in engineering ethics settings, and does not appear to be conducive to workshop formats; (iv) workshops are effective in raising awareness of nanobiotechnological ethical issues (statistically significant); and (v) decision making and behavior are difficult to measure within the time frame of this study (three years), but are likely to be encouraged through "community building" efforts within Duke and the larger research community.
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