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Notre Dame's Graduate School and Reilly Center Win NSF Grant to Evaluate Ethical Leadership Programs

Author: Mary Hendriksen

Laura Carlson Laura Carlson

How can universities best promote ethical academic and research practices in our STEM graduate students and postdoctoral scholars—who, as the leaders of tomorrow in academia, industry, and government, will serve as role models and mentors to others?

The University of Notre Dame’s Graduate School and John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values have won a National Science Foundation grant in the amount of $410,340 for a project that will study what training content and methods most successfully help STEM students become ethical leaders.

“The literature tells us that ethical leaders are role models to their peers, colleagues, mentees, and students,” says Principal Investigator Laura Carlson, professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Letters and vice president, associate provost, and dean of the Graduate School.

“We now have two leadership programs at Notre Dame—one at the Graduate School, grounded in research on business and management ethics; the second at the Reilly Center that follows the theories of scientific research ethics, especially social responsibility. While the primary goal of these two leadership programs are the same—cultivating ethical leaders—the theories behind them and the methods used by trainers are often quite different.”

Notre Dame’s NSF-funded project will assess the two programs’ effectiveness in training ethical leaders, and then compare results across the programs—identifying the training components that will best equip STEM students to grapple with ethical research dilemmas and establish ethical lab and workplace cultures. The end result will be the creation of a blended program that combines the best features of each approach. Even before the research team’s findings are disseminated through presentations and publications, Notre Dame will have trained nearly 100 students in theories and practices of ethical leadership—thus fulfilling the NSF’s goal of “cultivating cultures” for ethical STEM research practices and workplaces.

Co-principal investigators on the funded project are John Lubker, associate dean of students in the Graduate School; Don Howard, professor of philosophy and fellow at the Reilly Center; and Melinda Gormley, assistant director for research at the Reilly Center.

Originally published at