Resources for Teaching Research Ethics


Suggestions for additions and corrections are welcome. Please send them to the TRE project director.

See also the Resource section of the web site.

On this page:

TRE Workshop Resources | Case Studies | Federal Policies and Other Documents | Syllabi | Websites | Other Resources

TRE Workshop Resources

Case Studies

In this section: Moral Reasoning in Scientific Research | Cases by Kenneth D. Pimple | RCR Role-Play Scenarios | Other Cases

Moral Reasoning in Scientific Research: Cases for Teaching and Assessment

Moral Reasoning in Scientific Research is a unique 80-page booklet of materials for teaching the responsible conduct of science in college and university science courses. Intended as a teaching aid for science faculty members, the booklet was developed at the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions at Indiana University-Bloomington as part of the Teaching Research Ethics Annual Workshop. A poll of persons who have used the booklet indicates that it is a valuable resource for teaching the responsible conduct of science.

The materials focus on teaching and assessing moral reasoning, an essential component in ethical decision making. Included are:

  • an introduction to our approach;
  • instructions on using the materials;
  • an essay for students on "Developing a Well-Reasoned Response to a Moral Problem in Scientific Research;" and
  • six short (one-to-two page) case studies in research ethics.

Each case study presents a problem in research ethics and is accompanied by a set of "Notes for Discussion and Assessment." The "Notes" provide extensive discussion of the implicit ethical issues and points of conflict, interested parties, consequences, and moral obligations, and includes a checklist for evaluating students' responses to the case. Issues covered include data ownership, plagiarism, whistle blowing, data selection/exclusion, collegial relations, and animal use. Links to the essay "Developing a Well-Reasoned Response to a Moral Problem in Scientific Research;" and the individual cases in PDF format can be found below.

The materials were developed under a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education by Muriel J. Bebeau, Ph.D., Center for the Study of Ethical Development, University of Minnesota; Kenneth D. Pimple, Ph.D., Poynter Center; Karen M. T. Muskavitch, Ph.D., Biology, Indiana University; David H. Smith, Ph.D., Poynter Center and Religious Studies, Indiana University; and Sandra L. Borden, Poynter Center.

  • Moral Reasoning in Scientific Research: Cases for Teaching and Assessment. The whole booklet.
  • Developing a Well-Reasoned Response to a Moral Problem in Scientific Research. An essay for students to read prior to case discussion.
  • The Jessica Banks Case. Jessica Banks has just earned her Ph.D. and wants to take her lab notebooks when she leaves for her new job. Her lab director, Brian Hayward, objects. She wonders what to do.
  • The Charlie West Case. Charlie West, a post-doctoral fellow, is tempted to use in his grant proposal the background section of someone else's grant proposal. (Related to the Diane Archer case.)
  • The Diane Archer Case. Professor Diane Archer discovers plagiarized materials in a grant proposal submitted by Charlie West, a post-doctoral fellow she knew when he was a graduate student. (Related to the Charlie West case.)
  • The Marty Brown Case. Professor Marty Brown wants to exclude what he sees as anomalous data from a study he is conducting.
  • The Bob Bailey Case. Bob Bailey is a graduate student whose work is not going well. He blames his troubles in part on the romantic relationship that has developed between his lab director, Peter Martin, and one of his classmates, Sarah Stern. Bailey is concerned that their relationship is (a) bad for Stern and (b) bad for the lab, and he is considering bringing a complaint to the department chair. In an extension to this case, Bailey brings his complaint to the chair, David O'Donald. The chair dismisses the complaint because the relationship appears to be voluntary; he tells Bailey to get to work.
  • The Jenny Ito Case. Graduate student Jenny Ito is instructed by her lab director, Chris Holzer, to apply bacteria to pins inserted in rabbits to test the rate of infection for surgical pins; this is not in the protocol.

Cases and other resources for teaching by Kennneth D. Pimple


RCR Role-Play Scenarios

Role-Play Scenarios for Teaching Responsible Conduct of Research, developed by Michael C. Loui and C.K. Gunsalus


Other Cases

Federal Policies and Other Documents

Most of these documents are available from the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) or the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), both of which have many, many other interesting resources.


This list is far from comprehensive; use Google to search for "research ethics syllabus" and you'll get over 200,000 hits.


  • American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics (ASLME) "Where multidisciplinary education improves practice®: a unique resource for attorneys, physicians, nurses, ethicists, educators, students, administrators and other professionals shaping health care for the 21st century."
  • Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) "is committed to encouraging high quality interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching in practical and professional ethics by educators and practitioners who appreciate the theoretical and practical impacts of their subjects."
  • Association of Internet Researchers "the top international association for students and scholars in any discipline in the field of Internet studies." See especially the Ethics Guide.
  • Bioethics commissions created by U.S. Presidents and the U.S. Congress. The following text is taken from History of Bioethics Commissions (verified May 4, 2012). The links to the commissions' archives are from Former Commissions.
    The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues [created by President Barack Obama in November, 2009] continues the nearly forty-year history of groups established by the president or Congress to provide expert advice on topics related to bioethics. These groups have differed in their composition, methods, and areas of focus, but they have shared a common commitment to the careful examination and analysis of ethical considerations that underlie our nation's activities in science, medicine, and technology.
    The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1974-78) is generally viewed as the first national bioethics commission. Established [by Congress] as part of the 1974 National Research Act, the National Commission is best known for the Belmont Report. It identified fundamental principles for research involving human volunteers and was the basis of subsequent federal regulation in this area.
    The Presidential Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1978-83), also established by Congress, produced reports on foregoing life-sustaining treatment and access to health care, among other topics. Its 1981 report Defining Death was the basis of the Uniform Determination of Death Act, a model law that was enacted by most U.S. states.
    The Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments [ACHRE] (1994-95) was created by President Bill Clinton to investigate human radiation experiments conducted from 1944 -1974 as well as radiation intentionally released into the environment for research purposes. The committee considered the ethical and scientific standards for evaluating these events and provided recommendations aimed at ensuring that similar events could not be repeated.
    Since the mid-1990s, each of the past three presidents has established bioethics commissions to explore ethical issues in science, medicine, and technology. The  National Bioethics Advisory Commission [NBAC] (1996-2001), created by President Clinton, examined topics including cloning, human stem cell research, and research involving human subjects. President George W. Bush established the President's Council on Bioethics [PCBE] (2001-2009), which issued reports on stem cell research, human enhancement, and reproductive technologies, among other subjects. President Barack Obama created the current commission by Executive Order in November 2009.
    In addition to these presidential commissions, many other advisory bodies with mandates related to bioethical issues have existed within Executive Branch departments and agencies. Those groups have similarly aided the federal government's work in ensuring that scientific research and biomedical regulation and policy proceed with awareness of and sensitivity to ethical considerations.
  • Bioethics Research Library, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University
  • Conflict of Interest Toolkit, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)
  • CODEX Swedish Research Council. "This website's aim is to give researchers and other interested parties access to and information on the guidelines, ethics codes and laws that regulate and place ethical demands on the research process."
  • Collaborative Initiative for Research Ethics (CIRE) "a national and international website for research ethics training for students, researchers, faculty and community health and environmental professionals/advocates in community/environmental health, environmental sciences, engineering and related sciences. Training resources are available here for human subjects training with an emphasis on community-based studies, participatory research and cultural competence and humility training for ethical research with diverse racial and cultural groups."
  • Consortium Ethics Program (CEP) the regional health care ethics network in Western Pennsylvania. This premier network educates nurses, physicians, social workers and others from participating health care institutions in the language, methods and literature of health care ethics.
  • Ethical Guidelines for Statistical Practice, American Statistical Association
  • Ethics CORE (Collaborative Online Resource Environment), National Center for Professional and Reasearch Ethics - "information on best practices in research, ethics instruction and responding to ethical problems that arise in research and professional life."
  • (also and "Clinical, forensic, and ethics consultation."
  • EthicShare "a research and collaboration website designed to help you do research, share, collaborate, and participate in the field of ethics."
  • Financial Conflicts of Interest Policies, notices, and more on financial conflicts of interest (CoI) from the perspective of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and National Institutes of Health.
  • Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) "Educating the public about the essential role of biomedical research in the quest for medical advancements, treatments and cures for both people and animals."
  • International Journal of Internet Research Ethics (IJIRE) "the first peer-reviewed online journal, dedicated specifically to cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural research on Internet Research Ethics. All disciplinary perspectives, from those in the arts and humanities, to the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences, are reflected in the journal."
  • Northeast Ethics Education Partnershipis "focused on research ethics training needs for graduate students and faculty in environmental studies, engineering and related sciences."
  • National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) "On behalf of the biomedical research community, the National Association for Biomedical Research advocates for sound public policy in support of ethical and essential animal research."
  • Office of Inspector General (OIG), National Science Foundation (NSF) "provides independent oversight of the agency's programs and operations. The office is responsible for promoting efficiency and effectiveness in agency programs and for preventing and detecting fraud, waste, and abuse."
  • Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) "The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) provides leadership in the protection of the rights, welfare, and wellbeing of subjects involved in research conducted or supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)."
  • Office of Research Integrity (ORI) "oversees and directs Public Health Service (PHS) research integrity activities on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the exception of the regulatory research integrity activities of the Food and Drug Administration." See About ORI for informaton on how ORI "carries out its responsibility."
  • Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Research (OEC), National Academy of Engineering "provides readily accessible literature and information, case studies and references, and discussion groups on ethics in engineering and science. It focuses on problems that arise in and for the work life of engineers and scientists. It serves practitioners, educators and students, and individuals interested in professional and research ethics."
  • OpenSeminar in Research Ethics "a repository of opensource courses in the ethical and responsible conduct of research in the sciences and engineering disciplines."
  • Project for Scholarly Integrity (PSI) "an initiative of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), seeks to advance the scope and quality of graduate education in the ethical and responsible conduct of research." See especially the PSI online library.
  • Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) "dedicated to advancing the highest ethical standards in the conduct of research."
  • Research Ethics, University of Illinois Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. "Sites selected for the Research Ethics pages are designed to increase understanding and facilitate the discussion of current ethical issues."
  • Responsible Conduct of Research Education Committee (RCREC) "promote[s] high quality teaching and scholarship in research ethics and research ethics education."
  • Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program (SRHRL), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) "defending the freedom to engage in scientific inquiry, pioneering the application of science and technology to document human rights violations, promoting responsible research practices, and engaging policy makers and the larger public on the social, ethical and legal implications of advances in science and technology."
  • Scientists Center for Animal Welfare (SCAW) "committed to the development, acceptance and implementation of the highest standards for responsible use of animals in science."
  • Survival Skills and Ethics Program, University of Pittsburgh "provide[s] individuals in research and related fields with training and resources on many of the 'survival skills' needed to succeed as a professional."


Other Resources