Leadership in the Equitable and Ethical Design of Science and Engineering

Summary: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research raises issues of ethics and justice. Reviewers and funders of STEM research now often ask for integration of ethical, legal, and social implications and diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in the design of proposed research. This shift in expectation means that bioethicists, social scientists, and scholars in the arts and humanities are now asked to join science and engineering research teams. Their inclusion in the scientific process from the ground up is important; however, it is not clear how to integrate these scholars into the process. For instance, it is not clear who has the relevant expertise or what counts as successful integration. The investigators of this project are conducting a thorough review of past integration efforts and case studies in the fields of genomics, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence to build an evidence base that will facilitate more ethical and just STEM research. As such, the project will pave the way for the development of new guidelines for forming collaborative teams in science and facilitating sustained institutional changes that promote equitable and ethically robust research in science and engineering. The created guidelines will be a valuable resource for researchers, administrators, review boards, funders, and other stakeholders in STEM research. The project also offers training opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

Increasingly public and private institutions and funders recognize the critical importance of incorporating ethical and societal analysis into the design of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research. This research initiative evaluates previous efforts to integrate or embed initiatives focused on ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues into science and engineering research projects. The evidence base is being built up in two ways: (1) a content analysis of documents and literature that describe “integrated” and “embedded” ELSI research and DEI objectives within it; and (2) a case study comparison of the meaning of “integrated” and “embedded” ELSI and DEI in the fields of genomics, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence. Through this analysis, the project team identifies best practices that will inform the creation of practical, conceptually engaged, and ethically robust guidelines for ELSI and DEI in STEM research. This research supports the future development of Leadership in the Equitable and Ethical Design for STEM research guidelines. The goal of these guidelines will be to specify the role, points of engagement, timeline, and possible outcomes of DEI and ELSI collaborations in a manner that supports a more robust integration of DEI and ELSI into STEM research. Ultimately, the research will support the creation of a cross-sectors effort to reformulate the meaning of ethical and equitable science in a manner that creates sustained organizational culture and policy changes that center DEI, ELSI, and the goals of advancing equity and justice.