Research in the environmental sciences, engineering, and related fields often involves working with groups of community members through partnerships and consultation arrangements. Many environmental projects take place in communities with diverse cultural groups. Training in human subjects protections must therefore include respecting individuals as members of place-based communities. Additionally, cultural groups within local communities in the US and internationally have particular histories and traditions, group processes and research experiences that are important to learn about from case study and other sources. Ethical theories, cultural competence/humility theory, applied ethics articles and case studies offer valuable preparation for developing culturally-appropriate research methods and for developing more ethical approaches for research interventions with place-based communities.
Brown University’s Center for Environmental Studies, in partnership with SUNY-ESF, was awarded a three-year grant for developing and implementing a "Northeast Ethics Education Partnership (NEEP)" from the NSF’s grant program for “Ethics Education in Science and Engineering. Both faculty and graduate students in environmental studies, science, and engineering, will be able to participate in advanced training in research ethics and cultural competence for field research. The collaborative project team is promoting a new research ethics training curriculum combining expanded education about individual and community-based human subjects protection and cultural competence training for environmental research in the US and abroad.
NEEP Project Goals
The NEEP has designed the following goals to broaden the training and dissemination of research ethics training to graduate students in two regional areas having many schools and programs of environmental studies. Additionally, the Partnership will reach out to scientific societies to expand our training, and provide dissemination nationally.
1. To develop a Central New York research ethics network at SUNY-ESF of research ethics training materials and methods for faculty and graduate students in environmental science, engineering, and related fields
For more than seven years, Brown University’s Center for Environmental Studies (CES) and other collaborating faculty at Brown have worked to increase ethics training for those studying culturally-diverse populations and distressed communities. In this proposal, we have organized this Northeast partnership to set up a regional training network at SUNY-ESF for the central New York region. The collaborating faculty, including the sub-award PI, David Sonnenfeld will organize faculty and graduate students for a shared program of ethics education at SUNY-ESF, including the potential recruitment of participants from nearby university environmental studies, engineering and related sciences in the central New York region.
2. To implement a cooperative graduate ethics training program with the following training objectives over the three-year grant period
These training priorities will be carried out at SUNY-ESF and Brown through several components: (a) a regional dissertation-masters thesis training; (b) faculty-student mentoring; (c) faculty development-mentoring/workshops (d) train-the-trainer workshops at national conferences; and (d) website development/ dissemination. Each venue will offer training modules from our newly-proposed curriculum that combines cultural competence theory/methods with human subjects protections/Belmont Principles (see training modules/course curriculum).