History and Mission


The OEC mission is to: provide engineers, scientists, faculty, and students with resources for understanding and addressing ethically significant issues that arise in scientific and engineering practice and from the developments of science and engineering; and serve those who promote learning and advance understanding of responsible research and practice in engineering, science, and social sciences.


The OEC owes its existence to the founding leadership of Professor Caroline Whitbeck. She and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf, past president of the NAE, were the motivating forces for its transfer to the NAE in 2007. A gift from Harry E. Bovay, Jr. enabled the NAE to begin hosting the OEC. With this support and further substantial support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Rachelle Hollander, and program officer Frazier Benya oversaw the revamping and expansion of the site. NAE program director Simil Raghavan managed its technical enhancements. University of Virginia (UVA) faculty member Rosalyn W. Berne oversaw the OEC during her tenure at the NAE from 2018-2020. In 2020 the OEC moved to UVA with Prof. Berne on her return to UVA. The History of the OEC reports on prior contributions to the inception and evolution of this resource.

The OEC Advisory Group provides high-level oversight of the project and the OEC Editorial Board reviews and guides the OEC resource collection.

You can contact the OEC at OnlineEthics@virginia.edu.

Financial Support

Two primary grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) have made it possible to expand the resources and functionality of the OEC. The first grant (#0936865) specifically supported OEC efforts to assist individuals and institutions in complying with the America COMPETES Act requirement to provide “appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research.” This was achieved through the restructuring of the website to facilitate searches and provide a more user-friendly interface.

The second grant (#1355547) enabled the OEC to become the Online Resource Center for Ethics Education in Engineering and Science, a significant expansion to include resources for all of the sciences that NSF supports.

The current grant (#1835232) is supporting the OEC's efforts to help transform education in the responsible conduct of research, foster an ethical culture in education and practice, and to become part of a comprehensive approach to improve ethical culture and integrity at U.S. research and STEM educational institutions.

The NSF grant proposal and award administration guides specify its requirements concerning responsible conduct of research. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the OEC pages are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Virginia.