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National Cancer Institute

Ethical Foundations in Team Science Settings

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Beever J, Hannah M. Ethical Foundations in Team Science Settings. Oral presentation at 2017 SciTS Conference. Clearwater Beach, FL. Jun 13, 2017. Ethics And Integrity In Team Science. Online at:

Ethical decision-making, (i.e. the cognitive and affective components of understanding and acting in situations of complex moral salience), is especially challenging for team science due to the communicative, methodological, and foundational differences among disparate science cultures. And yet ethics is an understudied component of team science. In this presentation, we outline a novel research strategy by which to better understand the nature and role of ethics in team science. Much previous work in ethics has analyzed effective strategies of cultivating ethical decision-making at the individual level. Those projects leaned on Kohlbergianbased instruments of individual psychological moral development to assess ethical development. While this approach enhanced researchers’ understanding of ethical decision-making at the individual level, central questions arose as to how and to what extent ethical decision-making differed amongst groups collaborating in STEM disciplines and what impact these variations had on team science. This is a significant gap, given the increasing importance of team-based science. In response, we have developed a multidisciplinary team research strategy to study the ways that ethical decision-making may differ across disciplines and at stages of individual formation within disciplines. As an alternative to what has become a standard rationalistic and individualistic model of ethical decision-making, we propose drawing on character-based work of moral foundationalists who argue that the individuals’ ethical character is orientated, implicitly, to particular norms or values, and that these values are reflectively shaped by the cultures and contexts of group settings. To pursue this work, we pose two related hypotheses. First, we think that disciplinary enculturation exacerbates differences in individual value perspectives and decreases researchers’ abilities to collaborate effectively in team or group science settings. Second, we propose that foundational normative differences exist between disciplines precisely because of the ways in which members of disciplines are enculturated. Further, these differences play a role in the effectiveness of communication and decision-making within teams. In this presentation, we’ll develop these hypotheses and the theories that guide them and outline a research plan to study them. This research has significance for the science of team science both in drawing attention to the role of ethics in team science but also to the ways in which disciplinary enculturation effects individual values and actions.



Type of Publication:

Oral presentation


scits 2017 conference, presentation, ethics, team science, ethical foundation

Addresses these goal(s):

  • Learn about the field of team science: history, theory and concepts
  • Conduct research on/evaluate team science

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Resource created by Jane Hwang on 10/5/2017 9:57:12 AM.

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