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Graduate Students Learn about Ethics in Engineering


Graduate students affiliated with the NSF-funded IGERT program on cultural heritage diagnostics, based in Calit2’s Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3), were recently given a crash course on how to ensure that they remain ethical in their research careers and beyond.

As part of the Structural Engineering course (SE190) created by CISA3 as part of IGERT project, the director of the Research Ethics Program at UCSD gave a lecture to IGERT Trainees and Associates as well as PI Falko Kuester and postdocs on October 4 at UCSD. Michael Kalichman is also an affiliated faculty member of the IGERT-TEECH project. The five-year program recently marked its first anniversary.

In his talk, Introduction to Ethics for Engineers, Kalichman stressed that while not frequent, “some scientists and engineers knowingly violate the law, professional standards, or accepted norms of behavior. The consequences are at least a waste of scarce resources, and at most can mean the loss of life.”

Protection from this misbehavior is most likely to be accomplished by creating a professional environment in which it is hard to do what is wrong, and easier to do what is right, said Kalichman. “This focus on responsible conduct, instead of on serious misconduct, serves to create a more collegial work environment and indirectly decreases the risk of the most serious forms of misbehavior,” he said. "The purpose of this discussion is not to deliver the ‘answers’ to how one should act in any particular situation. The focus instead is to translate the same methods we use in conducting research to addressing the ethical challenges inherent to our practice of science and engineering.

More information about ethics in science and engineering can be found through the UC San Diego Research Ethics Program at