Previous   Contents   Next
Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Spring 2001

URLs in this document have been updated. Links enclosed in {curly brackets} have been changed. If a replacement link was located, the new URL was added and the link is active; if a new site could not be identified, the broken link was removed.

Science & Technology Resources on the Internet

Internet Teaching Resources in Chemical Research Ethics

K.T.L. Vaughan
Graduate Student
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
School of Information and Library Science

Scope | Introduction to Field | Policies, Codes, and Guidelines | Research Centers
Core Texts and Case Studies | Journals | Bibliographies and Syllabi | Newsgroups/Mailing Lists


This guide is designed for the university professor or lab manager who wants to incorporate research ethics education into his or her course(s). The focus is on the integrity of the research process, from the reporting of data to plagiarism. The resources have been chosen based on their applicability to the advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate student curriculum.

Introduction to the Field

The Public Health Service regulations (42 C.F.R. Part 50.102) define scientific misconduct as "fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretation or judgments of data." Each branch of the sciences has different major ethical issues, including fraud, misconduct, the mentor/mentee relationship, selection of test subjects, and the purpose of research itself. Research ethics has recently sprung to national attention with highly publicized cases of fraud, plagiarism, and other instances of professional misconduct. These cases do not just involve crack scientists creating cold fusion in their garages; one of the most famous controversies involved the revelation that Dr. David Baltimore, a Nobel Prize winner then at MIT, and his research assistant may have fabricated data in a published paper.

The last few years have also seen interest in teaching chemical ethics rise. The federal government now requires many graduate students receiving NIH and NSF grant monies to pass a seminar or other course on research ethics. Many institutions now offer ethics instruction either as part of introductory classes or as a course unto itself. If students do not learn ethics in school, and if they are not taught to apply ethics to their coursework as well as their research, how can we expect them to be ethical researchers once they are on their own? The problem, of course, is that many of the professors and other instructors expected to teach these issues have never had formal education in the field themselves. There are many resources available for teaching ethics; this guide is designed to help the beginning lecturer or student identify starting points in the field.

Policies, Codes, and Guidelines

There are literally hundreds of ethics policies applicable to chemical research. Below are samples from the American Chemical Society, the National Science Foundation, and a collaboration of American universities, colleges, and graduate schools. Each college or university will also have its own policy statement. It is imperative that the researcher understand the basics of these policies in order to comply with them.
The Chemist's Code of Conduct. (1994).
This short document replaces the Chemist's Creed as the official principles of conduct for professional chemists.

National Science Foundation Misconduct in Science and Engineering: Final Rule. (1991). Hosted on the Web by UCSD:

Framework for Institutional Policies and Procedures to Deal With Fraud in Research. (1989).
The framework arose out of collaboration among the Association of American Universities, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, and the Council of Graduate Schools with input from a number of federal and non-governmental organizations.

American Chemical Society Ethical Guidelines. (1996).
These guidelines are particularly relevant to scientists wanting to publish in ACS member publications, but there are also sections for editors, authors, reviewers, and scientists publishing outside of the scientific literature (i.e., in a "lay journal").

Research Centers

Most of the hundreds of scientific ethics Internet pages are lists of links to other pages, online syllabi, or bibliographies. The following two pages distinguish themselves by their depth, breadth, and ease of use, as well as their ability to speak to the topic. They include bibliographies, syllabi, links, and interactive areas for students and faculty.

The Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science
A very professional and very complete site designed for students in the sciences and engineering. The Center supports a "Help Desk" for students needing advice on ethical problems as well as areas with ethics resource materials, cases, codes, diversity and gender issues, problems in the corporate world, etc. There is also an extensive bibliography and a helpful glossary of ethics terms.

Teaching Research Ethics (TRE). The Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions.
This site, while less polished than the previous one, is full of useful information, including annotated bibliographies, an online book titled Moral Reasoning in Scientific Research: Cases for Teaching and Assessment (available for download using Adobe Acrobat, see above), and several annotated lists of web resources (including syllabi). This site also offers Case Builder, which is a Macintosh program which helps instructors create ethics cases for study in class. TRE is an annual workshop sponsored by the Poynter Center in the spring.

Core Texts and Case Studies

There are few online texts for research ethics. This reflects the paucity of texts available in general for chemical research ethics. However, the following two publications are crucial for students to read. One is a primer on sanctioned scientific conduct; the other is a collection of case studies for classroom use.

Committee on Science, Engineering, And Public Policy. (1995) On Being A Scientist: Responsible Conduct In Research.. National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.  Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
This is the most often cited book for ethics in chemistry. It is a book which every chemist (both student and professional) should read and which every major library should own. It is available for $5 from the NAS (discounts given when more than 10 copies are bought at once) or for free at the web site.

Bebeau, Muriel J., et al. (1995) Moral Reasoning in Scientific Research: Cases for Teaching and Assessment. Bloomington, IN: Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions.
Created for the Poynter Center's Teaching Research Ethics project, this is a brief booklet with an introduction to case study usage, an essay for students, and six short case studies for students to discuss.


As with much other scholarship in the sciences, the best source of current information on chemical ethics is in journals. Two online journals in particular are devoted to ethics and ethics instruction, and are useful for syllabi, reviews, and case material.

Bird, Stephanie J. and Raymond Spier, eds. Science and Engineering Ethics. Opragen Publications. Index and abstracts online at
"A multi-disciplinary quarterly journal, launched in 1995, exploring ethical issues confronting scientists and engineers through: Refereed papers and reviews, editorials, comments, letters, educational resources, book and conference reports, and special topic issues."

Pimple, Kenneth D., ed. TREnds: Teaching Research Ethics. The Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions, Indiana University.
"A newsletter on issues in teaching research ethics...We also often publish articles and opinions reprinted by permission from The Scientist."

Journal of Chemical Education. American Chemical Society.
JCE often has articles from educators that detail syllabi for classes or experiments in teaching chemical ethics, especially to undergraduates. Tables of contents and abstracts are available on this site to non-subscribers.

HYLE: International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry. University of Karlsruhe Department of Philosophy.
Volume 7(2), 2001 will be dedicated to articles concerning the "Ethics of Chemistry." Papers are generally, but not always, in English, and are available in full-text, HTML form on the web site.

Bibliographies and Syllabi

These bibliographies are excellent starting points for further research in chemical ethics and ethics instruction. The first are maintained by two major figures in this field and are annotated; the third is a list of online and print resources which you may find useful.

Pimple, Kenneth D. (1997?). A Short List of Useful Resources for Teaching Research Ethics or A Beginner's Bookshelf. The Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions, Indiana University.
This is a list of 20 books, booklets, and handbooks chosen by Dr. Pimple as a sample of introductory sources for ethics instruction. There are a number of textbooks and case studies listed here. Each title is accompanied by a full citation, abstract, and keywords list. There is also a larger, searchable bibliography maintained by the Poynter Center at {}

Sweeting, Linda (2000). Professional Ethics for Scientists: Annotated Bibliography for a Course in Ethics in Science. Towson University.
Dr. Sweeting is an organic chemist, so many of her resources are specifically aimed at chemistry students. The bibliography is very long and comprehensive, giving the educator an idea of just how much information there is available through both print and electronic sources.

Tissue, Brian (1997). Science Ethics Bibliography. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Department of Chemistry.
Online bibliography which is indexed both by field and by general topics. Entries are hyperlinked to online material where available, but are not annotated. A large range of subjects is covered by this list.

Newsgroups/Mailing Lists

Mailing lists are a good way to keep in touch with other people concerned about an issue, and to compare notes on resources available or in process.

SCIFRAUD is an open mailing list maintained by SUNY-Albany. The address for subscribing is
"SCIFRAUD is dedicated to the discussion of fraud in science.... Then, too, there are topics with which the board has been concerned: the prevalence of fraud in science, the use of fraud and dishonesty productively in science, the structure of science, competition in science, Institutionalized Science, and the history of fraud in science."

Previous   Contents   Next

4.0 Checked!