OEC and the America COMPETES Act

The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act, or the America COMPETES Act, was signed into law by the president in August of 2007. The act was designed to ensure America's competitive place in the world economy through a commitment to scientific research and improvements in math and science education. Among other provisions, the act directed the National Science Foundation to include provisions for mentoring and training in the responsible and ethical conduct of research for undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in their grant requirements. 

Changes to the NSF award guidelines now require a plan for “appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research” as well as a description of the mentoring activities provided for postdoctoral researchers. The guidelines are described in detail in the January 2010 NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, specifically  Part I - Grant Proposal Guide, Chapter II. C.1e and  Part II - Award and Administration Guide, Chapter IV.B. Responses to concerns submitted by the public during the open comment period and additional details are included in the Federal Register Notice of August 20, 2009.

While many institutions may already have had programs in place for providing appropriate training in responsible conduct, others needed to draw on existing materials to create appropriate programs for their own institutions. In order to ensure that individuals and institutions were prepared to meet the new America COMPETES requirements, a grant from the National Science Foundation made it possible for the Online Ethics Center to provide new resources on our site specifically designed to assist those seeking to respond to the new standards. Numerous site modifications and enhancements were designed to help meet the needs of university instructors and administrators. These included new navigation controls along with the addition of several new sections.

  • Institutional Programs - Includes reports and information about campus- and university-wide programs of ethics education for undergraduate and graduate students and for post-doctoral fellows in science and engineering. 
  • Teaching Tools and Education - These sections include syllabi and materials from ethics insertions (modules and micro-modules), courses and workshops intended for one or more fields of science and engineering.  There are links to relevant cases and bibliographic items, and site links as appropriate. 
  • The Cases Database - Many ethics activities on campuses or in other setting use ethics cases or scenarios in their instruction.  The case database is a compilation of all the cases available on the Online Ethics Center.  We aimed to make these cases easily searchable and to classify them by discipline or field, level (e.g., pre-college, undergraduate, graduate and post-doc), subject, name of author, and setting (e.g., university, government, industry, hospital, international).
  • Evaluation Tools - A set of materials and links to assessment activities and tools that have been found to be useful in assessing the merits of institutional and instructional efforts in ethics education and in assessing the varieties of cases in use in many courses, curricula, workshops, and other more informal educational settings..
  • Other Resources and Links - Contains a master list of links to other relevant sites and resources outside of the Online Ethics Center where users can find additional information.
  • Bibliographies - Through the help of Kelly Laas, the reference librarian at the Ethics Education Library of the IIT Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, we compiled a number of annotated bibliographies on useful topics for engineers, researchers, and educators alike.  Links to individual bibliographies can be found under appropriate topics sections, and you can browse the whole collection in the general "Bibliographies" section.  If there is another topic that you would like to see a bibliography for, please let us know and we will work to compile it for you.

Funding for enhancements to the OEC came from the National Science Foundation through grant number 0936865. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.