Press release:

Public Lecture to Discuss NSF’s New Requirement for Research Ethics
Challenges arise from lack of agreement on content and teaching strategies

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA – January 26, 2009 – The Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly today announced the launch of its Technology and Ethics Lecture Series. The inaugural lecture, free and open to the public, will be given by guest speaker Dr. Tom Powers of University of Delaware on Friday, February 6, 2009 from 12-1 pm at the Fisher Science Building 33, room 286, on campus.

Dr. Powers’ talk, entitled “Getting ‘Good Science’ Right: Research Ethics, the NSF, and the America COMPETES Act” focuses on a new requirement for research-ethics training mandated by the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 2272) that became law in 2007. Section 7009 of that act directs applicants seeking support from the National Science Foundation (NSF)—a major source of university research funding— to “provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers.”

A key challenge in providing the required training, however, is a lack of consensus on the appropriate content or pedagogy for this training. Worse, recent research indicates that some forms of training may have a negligible or even negative effect on actual practices. From his work in organizing ethicists to engage the NSF on their new research-ethics policy, Dr. Powers will also discuss some models for research-ethics training and suggest how federal requirements could reinvigorate a critical and constructive approach to the philosophy and ethics of science and engineering.

“We’re pleased to have Dr. Powers come to Cal Poly and give us his first-hand insights into this new requirement, which will affect many researchers here as well as at hundreds of universities nationwide,” said Dr. Patrick Lin, director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group. “We’re also grateful for the support we’ve received from the Philosophy Department as well as our College of Liberal Arts for our new Technology & Ethics Lecture Series, which will spotlight issues that are increasingly relevant to society today.”

Tom Powers, PhD, is director of the Science, Ethics, and Public Policy Program and an assistant philosophy professor at the University of Delaware, as well as a research faculty fellow at the acclaimed Delaware Biotechnology Institute. He is also the principal investigator on a NSF-funded project “RAISE: Research and Integrity in Science and Engineering.”

Based at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group is a non-partisan research and educational organization focused on the risk, ethical, and social impacts of emerging technologies. Current projects and interests are related to issues in robotics, human enhancement, nanotechnology, space development, and other areas. Please visit us at or


Patrick Lin, Ph.D., Director
palin [at]

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