NSF News

New NSF awards to foster ethical research practices

The U.S. National Science Foundation is investing more than $5 million in new research and education projects that aim to define and promote responsible and ethical research conduct. The funding will support 14 projects at academic institutions ranging from small liberal arts colleges to historically Black colleges and universities and state universities. This includes three awards in states that are part of the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, which supports areas in the U.S. that have historically received less federal support for research and development.

NSF has been committed to supporting research ethics and ethics education projects across all science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. In 2019, that commitment led to the creation of the Ethical and Responsible Research (ER2) program, which now includes support from all eight of the agency's research directorates and its Office of International Science and Engineering. 

"This year's Ethical and Responsible Research awards examine a wide range of important issues in the field, from how to responsibly incorporate the input of communities that are being studied to helping scientists make sure peer-review practices are as fair as possible," says Jason Borenstein, a program director in NSF's Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) and the leader of the interdisciplinary ER2 working group. "The awards also focus on developing effective ways to foster ethical and responsible research knowledge and practices at all career stages. This includes undergraduates, graduate students and university faculty."

For example, a team of researchers from Oberlin College, Tennessee State University, an HBCU, and the University of South Alabama will work with community partners in Africatown, Alabama, to develop curricular materials and a pilot workshop on the ethics of community-engaged research. A team of researchers in Utah is developing ethics education training modules that can be used at state-funded universities of various sizes and resource levels. Other new projects being supported by ER2 are considering the effectiveness of interventions and training to prevent harassment during fieldwork and the ethics and value of using algorithms and artificial intelligence in making scientific publication and funding decisions.

"As science advances, our understanding and adherence to ethical and responsible conduct in the pursuit of science must advance as well," says Sylvia Butterfield, NSF's acting assistant director in SBE. "The ER2 program provides critical support to ensure that knowledge of what constitutes fair and responsible research practices is pursued with the same rigor as other areas of research." 

For more information, visit the Ethical and Responsible Research webpage and explore the full list of 14 ER2 awards announced in the fall of 2023.