Drawing on issues raised by this year’s Go Big Read selection, a fall symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will address responsible conduct and ethical decision-making in research.
The Integrating Research Ethics and Scholarship (IRES) is an initiative, sponsored by the Graduate School, that offers both novice and seasoned researchers and scholars educational opportunities and resources that reflect best practices in ethics education and scholarly integrity. The fall ethics symposium will be held on Thursday, Nov. 4, in Grainger Hall and will address topics related to “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot.
A morning session, aimed at junior researchers including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, is titled “Integrating Research Ethics and Scholarship: Henrietta Lacks and Research Practices.” Overview and small group discussions will draw on themes from the book to explore cross-disciplinary elements of research integrity, such as individual versus public benefit, responsible authorship (in social sciences, humanities, and biomedical research), informed consent (in social sciences, humanities, and biomedical research), communicating science, and patents and commercialization.
One of the goals is to help research trainees incorporate ethics into everyday practice, learn to identify potential conflicts, and how to handle such situations if they arise, organizers say.
“The landscape of research ethics shifts over time,” says Heather McFadden of the Office of Research Policy. “We hope that participants will walk away with tangible skills they can apply to their own research practices as well as a better understanding of where research policies come from.”
A public evening session, “Who Decides and Who Profits: Research at UW-Madison,” will feature a panel discussion about the decision-making and administrative processes behind campus research. The panel will include a mix of researchers, research administrators, and deans.
“We are hoping to put an open, public face on how we, as an institution and as individuals, go about the process of research,” says William Mellon, professor of pharmacy and associate dean for research policy, who will moderate the discussion. “In general, researchers are interested in producing results that will benefit people. Most researchers are motivated by making a difference.”
Discussion topics will include the costs and benefits of research, research oversight and infrastructure at UW-Madison, how the public can influence the research agenda, how federal and state money is spent, and why basic science research is done.
“To the general public, the nature of how research gets done – the organization and administration – is not transparent and so complex. There are many misconceptions,” says horticulture professor Irwin Goldman, one of the panel members. “It’s a set of rules very detailed and specific to higher education that people would not know unless they interact with them on a regular basis. Yet the public has a right to know that their money is being used as we said it would be.”
The morning session for researchers will take place from 8:30 a.m.-noon in 1310 Grainger Hall. The evening public discussion will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Morgridge Auditorium, 1100 Grainger Hall.
The fall 2010 events are co-sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Letters & Science, the School of Education, the School of Human Ecology, the School of Medicine and Public Health, the School of Nursing, the School of Pharmacy, and the School of Veterinary Medicine.
For more information and registration for the morning and evening events, visit http://grad.wisc.edu/ethics.