ER2: Collaborative Research: Responsible Engineering across Cultures: Investigating the Effects of Culture and Education on Ethical Reasoning and Dispositions of Engineering Students (PI: Qin Zhu). See NSF webpage.
Engineering is more cross-cultural and international than ever before, resulting in potential disagreements about (in)appropriate courses of action, which can impede engineering work. Despite high rates of international enrollment and an increased focus on global dimensions of engineering in US programs, ethical issues arising from global engineering have been insufficiently addressed. To address these issues, this project will assess the impact of culture and education on ethics among engineering students in North America, Europe, and Asia. Understanding if and how diverse cultural backgrounds and educational experiences affect professional decision-making and collaborations requires empirical investigation, to develop training that addresses the kinds of challenges engineering students, practitioners, programs, and organizations will increasingly encounter in the globalized world. This project will be beneficial for training the next generation of engineers who are competent in working professionally and ethically in the global context and are responsive to the value of diversity in quality and sustainable engineering work.
The goal of this project is to identify educational interventions with the greatest effects on ethical reasoning and dispositions of engineering students, whether these effects differ among cultural and national groups, and if/how to modify these interventions to respond effectively to cultural and national differences. To do so, researchers from Colorado School of Mines, University of Pittsburgh, Delft University of Technology, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University will implement mixed-method, quasi-experimental, longitudinal, and cross-sectional research to: (1) determine the effects of culture and foreign language on the ethical perspectives of first-year engineering students; (2) assess the relative effects of culture and education on these perspectives over four years; (3) use engineering ethics assessment tools across cultures and countries to examine their cross-cultural validity. Findings from this project will be essential to develop educational interventions that effectively respond to the globalized environments of contemporary engineering practice. They will also contribute to the development of more inclusive engineering education, by identifying perspectives potentially marginalized in the reigning paradigms. Finally, this project has implications for the development of responsible research education at the graduate level. Despite the fact graduate student bodies in STEM fields have become increasingly international, limited work has focused on developing culturally responsive ethics curricula for graduate students from diverse backgrounds.
Convergence Accelerator Phase I (RAISE): Toward Fair, Ethical, Efficient, and Trustworthy Crowdsourcing Platforms to Support Crowdworkers in Jobs of the Future, National Science Foundation (PI: Chuan Yue, Co-PIs: Ben Gilbert and Qin Zhu). See NSF webpage.
The broader impact/potential benefit of this Convergence Accelerator Phase I project is multifaceted. Crowdsourcing has created a vast and rapidly growing online labor market. However, today's crowdsourcing platforms cannot well support crowdworkers, job requesters, and the healthy growth of this important online labor market due to four major problems: fairness, ethics, efficiency, and trustworthiness. This project is a convergence of the research and development from multiple intellectually distinct disciplines including Computer Science, Economics & Business, and Humanities & Social Sciences. By performing fundamental research with rapid development advances through partnerships with crowdsourcing platform providers, this project will deliver techniques that can be used to create fair, ethical, efficient, and trustworthy crowdsourcing platforms to support American crowdworkers. It will also enable job requesters including researchers, companies, and government or humanitarian aid organizations to receive high-quality and trustworthy task submissions for them to confidently conduct their important studies and make important decisions. This project will actively involve students from underrepresented groups including female and minority students. It will train students on research and on producing high-quality deliverables. It will widely disseminate its results via activities such as publishing research papers and promoting the wide use of the deliverables.
CHS: Small: Collaborative Research: Role-Based Norm Violation Response in Human-Robot Teams, National Science Foundation (PI: Tom Williams, Co-PI: Qin Zhu). See NSF webpage.
Robots may need to carefully decide when and how to reject commands given to them, if the actions required to carry out those commands are not morally permissible. Most previous work on this topic takes a norm-based ethical approach, where a robot would operate under a set of rules describing what states or actions are morally wrong, and use those rules to explain its actions. In contrast, this project explores a role-based perspective, in which the robot reasons about the relationships it holds with others, the roles it plays in those relationships, and whether the actions requested of it are benevolent with respect to those roles and relationships. Specifically, the researchers will develop a framework to allow robots to reason in this way and generate explanations of its actions based on this reasoning. The researchers will then explore how role-based and norm-based command rejections compare in terms of how they affect human-robot teamwork, and design algorithms to allow robots to automatically decide what type of rejection to generate based on their context. These algorithms and explanations will be evaluated in two very different contexts with different types of relationships, roles, and rules: with civilian undergraduates at the Colorado School of Mines, and with Air Force cadets at the US Air Force Academy. This work will not only increase robots' ability to behave ethically and act as good teammates, but will also advance moral philosophy by providing experimental evidence for the relative importance and effectiveness of different tenets of role-based moral philosophy.
Mines Open Education Resources (OER) Grant: Value-based, Engaged & Self-reflective Ethics Pedagogies (VESEPs) in STEM
In science and engineering ethics education, there has been an increasing interest in cultivating students’ moral sensitivity and self-reflection capabilities. However, dominant ethics learning modules are not very well aligned with such a learning objective on the “self-dimension” of professional education, as most existing modules often focus on applying either codes of ethics or ethical theories while overlook the role of personal values in affecting professional decision-making. With the support of this grant, we are hoping to develop a collective of ethical learning tools that can help students critically examine the development of their own values, actively engage in meaningful ethics discussions, and develop self-reflective capabilities.
With the support of this grant, we are planning to develop around 10 value-based, engaged & self-reflective ethics learning tools that can be easily integrated into the classes in technical and humanities disciplines that aim to cultivate students’ moral sensitivity and self-reflection. In particular, for each ethics learning tool, we will include: (1) a “ready-to-be-used” student worksheet which includes the full student instruction; (2) a teaching guide for the instructor that explains how to set up and implement such activity including the use context of this tool (e.g., classroom, field session, senior design class); and (3) a grading rubric that will help the instructor better assess students’ moral development and learning experience. We are hoping to share these ethics learning tools at the website of the National Academy of Engineering’s Ethics Center for Engineering and Science and these tools will be reviewed by the editors at this Center. Therefore, these tools will potentially benefit students and instructors beyond the Mines campus. We will also seek help from our library colleagues and share these tools on one website.
Mines Open Education Resources (OER) Grant: Ethics, society, and technology: A Confucian perspective
This project focuses on developing open education resources (OER) for Mines undergraduate and graduate classes that are interested in incorporating Confucian ethics into the classroom. We have published an essay on the fundamental teachings in Confucian ethics and their applications in understanding the complex relationships between ethics, society, and technology. This essay also includes a few pedagogical tools for enriching and evaluating students' experience learning Confucian ethics of technology. We hope to publish this material in an open access format.