IU Poynter Center scholar advising NSF-funded research ethics initiative

A scholar with Indiana University’s Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions is playing a key role in developing a new, interactive resource that will help researchers incorporate ethical practices into their professional lives.

Kenneth Pimple, the Poynter Center’s director of teaching research ethics programs, serves as a senior advisor with the Ethics Collaborative Online Resource Environment, or Ethics CORE. Formally launched last week by the University of Illinois and partner institutions, the project will gather and disseminate ethics resources and create an online, interactive community where users can share scholarship and ideas and discuss issues.

Kenneth Pimple

Kenneth Pimple

“The Ethics CORE has the potential to be the highest-profile research ethics endeavor ever seen,” Pimple said. “The influence it will no doubt have will be beneficial to the Poynter Center and IU, as well as the global research community.”

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Ethics CORE provides help for researchers in the sciences, engineering and mathematics. It seeks to “create a dynamic, one-stop environment where people can collaborate and discuss ethical questions and issues that arise ethical questions and issues that arise on a daily basis,” said C.K. Gunsalus, director of the National Center for Professional & Research Ethics, which developed the project.

Users have access to:

  • 5,400 articles and reports
  • 250,000 peer-reviewed journal articles
  • Full-text search of more than 45 professional society codes ofethics
  • More than 250 instructional and support materials on the Responsible Conduct of Research education required by NSF and other research funders

A beta version of the site launched last year and has attracted more than 900 users. Pimple maintains a blog on research ethics at the Ethics CORE and has used the site to work with colleagues at other institutions on research ethics projects.

“One of the CORE’s functions is to provide a virtual space for collaboration, a kind of social Internet hub for researchers,” he said. “I have spent many hours using the CORE and making suggestions for improvements, most of which have been implemented.”

One example came in 2011 when Pimple and Doug Adams of the University of Arkansas were scheduled to present a paper titled “A situational approach to research integrity” at the Quest for Research Excellence conference in Washington, D.C. Hurricane Irene threatened the East Coast, forcing organizers to postpone the conference. But Pimple created a group on the Ethics CORE, with Quest conference registrants invited to join, and posted the paper and slides that he and Adams had planned to present.

Forty-three people eventually joined the group, and several posted comments and responses, creating more interaction than would probably have occurred in a 20-minute conference presentation. “Furthermore, the online conversation was at least as substantive as a typical face-to-face question and answer period,” Pimple said.

For more on the Ethics CORE, see the National Center for Professional & Research Ethics website.

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