Virtues and norms

From The Embassy of Good Science

Virtues and norms

Instructions for:TraineeTrainer
Goal
This exercise helps to develop approaches for implementing virtues in real life dilemmas by relating virtues to norms of action while reflecting on a real RI dilemma from different perspectives by means of dialogue.
Requirements

You need to have read the instructions before experiencing the exercise.

Moreover, you need to be acquainted with:

a) The concept of virtue and its importance for RI;

b) The concept of norm;

c) The concept of moral dilemma;

e) The content of the ECoC.

In order to fruitfully experience this exercise you need to have a background in research (i.e. be employed as researchers) or be a trainer/educator/teacher who has had experience in research in the past.


Duration (hours)
1
Participants
20
Part of Icon-virt2ue 2.svgVIRT2UE

What is this about?

This exercise supports reflection on Research Integrity (RI) cases and dilemmas by focusing on how virtues (or moral characters) can support researchers in deciding how to act in accordance to personal motives and values[1]. In this exercise virtues are defined and reflected upon and transformed into norms for action. You will be asked to reflect on questions such as “What should I do to honor honesty in this situation?” “How can I be reliable?” This exercise helps to reflect on which kind of researchers do we want to be and what are excellent behaviors while considering possible difficulties and constraints.

To get an impression of what is this about please watch this video.

  1. Pennock, R. T. & O’Rourke, M. Developing a Scientific Virtue-Based Approach to Science Ethics Training. Sci. Eng. Ethics 23, 243–262 (2017).

Why is this important?

Researchers are often faced with dilemmas and questions which put their integrity at risk. In these situations, researchers are asked to decide what is important for them and how can they stay close to their values while protecting their integrity and respecting their professional codes of conduct. Reflecting on which moral characters are important for researchers, and on how do these moral characters might lead their actions can support researchers in understanding what are the personal motives in doing good science.

Practical Tips

Handout 1

Form for case reflection

Instructions

Think about one situation which you have encountered in your professional life in which you found yourself doubting about what was the right thing to do in order to act with integrity.

It could be a situation in which you had to face a dilemma and found yourself wondering should I do A or B? Both options might have had undesirable consequences but nevertheless, you had to act and decide what to do.

The purpose of this exercise is to invite you to reflect on your personal experience as researcher. Please note that not all the cases will be discussed during the exercise. The facilitator will contact you if your case has been selected for discussion during the exercise.

All the cases will be destroyed after the training. Also, if you want you can contact your trainer and ask him to distribute and sign a confidentiality statement.

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Handout 2

Virtues and norms table

Examples of virtues:

Resoluteness; Accountability; Availability; Competency; Patience; Perseverance; Reliability; Sincerity; Creativity; Honesty; Objectivity; Humility; Accountability, Punctuality, Trustworthiness/truthfulness, Selflessness; Reflexivity; Clarity of purpose; Collaborative spirit; Fairness; Loyalty; Moderation; Positivity; Respectfulness.Pre-filled example table:

Name Virtue Norm/action
Louise Honesty I should credit all the contributors
Courage I should talk to my supervisor
Ben Reliability I should do exactly what I promised to my colleague.
1
Prepare

One week before the exercise takes place you will be asked to submit a RI personal case (this doesn’t need to be a research misconduct case but a case in which, as a researcher, you were in doubt about what was the right thing you should do) (see handout 1 in practical tips). Not all the cases can be discussed during the exercise. If your case is selected the trainer contacts you to prepare a description of the case to be distributed to the rest of the participants.

2
Protect confidentiality

Prior to the session you will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to formalize the fact that the information shared during the exercise will be kept confidential and will be destroyed after the training.

3
Experience the exercise

The trainer will facilitate the exercise by following the steps.

1. Orientation: case and dilemma

Presentation of the case and formulation their dilemma.

2. Replacing and clarification

Participants are given space for clarification questions about the case. This will allow participants to step in the case presenter’s shoes.

3. Virtues and norms

Creation of an overview of virtues and correspnding norms considered relevant in the case at stake (see handout 2 in practical tips).

4. Dialogue about differences and similarities

Engaging in a dialogue about differences and similarities among participants’ virtues and norms. What do you perceive as remarkable?

5. Conclusions

Wrapping up and formulating take home messages.

For a detailed description of the steps see the trainers instructions.

Remarks

List of contributors:

Giulia Inguaggiato, Margreet Stolper

For their feedback and contribution, we would like to thank: Signe Mezinska, Armin Schmolmüller, Rea Scepanovic, Tom Lindermann and Daniel Pizzolato, Erika Lofstrom, Solveig Corner.

This training has been developed by the VIRT2UE project, which has received funding form the European Union’s H2020 research programme under grant agreement N 741782.

What is this about?

This exercise aims at providing structure to foster reflection in others on Research Integrity (RI) cases and dilemmas by means of reflecting on the concepts of virtues and their relationship with practice[1]. By means of this exercise virtues are reflected upon in the context of research integrity and transformed into norms for action. This exercise helps to realize the importance of virtues for RI and how could they be translated into practice.

  1. Pennock, R. T. & O’Rourke, M. Developing a Scientific Virtue-Based Approach to Science Ethics Training. Sci. Eng. Ethics 23, 243–262 (2017).
To get an impression of what is this about please watch this video.

Why is this important?

Reflecting on the moral characters important to researchers and how do they lead their action is important to reflect on what are the personal motives which lead researchers to do good science.

Practical Tips

You can use the following instruction to help participants reflect on their own cases. These handouts are also included in the instructions for trainees.

Form for case reflection

Instructions

Think about one situation which you have encountered in your professional life in which you found yourself doubting about what was the right thing to do in order to act with integrity.

It could be a situation in which you had to face a dilemma and found yourself wondering should I do A or B? Both options might have had undesirable consequences but nevertheless, you had to act and decide what to do.

The purpose of this exercise is to invite you to reflect on your personal experience as researcher. Please note that not all the cases will be discussed during the exercise. The facilitator will contact you if your case has been selected for discussion during the exercise.

All the cases will be destroyed after the training. Also, if you want you can contact your trainer and ask him to distribute and sign a confidentiality statement.

You might consider printing and distributing a hand-out with a list of RI virtues and the pre-filled table to be used to support participants in step 5 of the exercise.

Hand out step five

Examples of virtues2:

Resoluteness; Accountability; Availability; Competency; Patience; Perseverance; Reliability; Sincerity; Creativity; Honesty; Objectivity; Humility; Accountability, Punctuality, Trustworthiness/truthfulness, Selflessness; Reflexivity; Clarity of purpose; Collaborative spirit; Fairness; Loyalty; Moderation; Positivity; Respectfulness.

Pre-filled example table:

Name Virtue Norm/action
Louise Honesty I should credit all the contributors
Courage I should talk to my supervisor
Ben Reliability I should do exactly what I promised to my colleague.
1
Preparation

One week before the exercise takes place ask participants to:

1)   Submit a RI personal case (by using the form for case reflection, see practical tips)

2)   Read the following theme pages on The Embassy:

a)         Virtues in research integrity

b)         Moral conflict and moral dilemma 

c)         Values and norms

d)         Dialogue versus debate

The submitted case does not need to be a research misconduct case but a case in which, as researchers, participants were in doubt about what was the right thing to do.

While asking for cases it is good to manage expectations. Make sure to mention that not all the cases can be discussed during the exercise. However, reflecting on a personal case is important since it brings the focus on participants’ practice as researchers and underlines the fact that moral uncertainty is not something to be ashamed of but it is part of everyone’s experience.

Select a case which might be interesting for participants and ask the case presenter if they would be willing to present the case during the session. Make sure it is a real and personal case and the case owner is able to tell the details of the case. Together you prepare a short description of the case to be distributed to the other participants (this is not mandatory). To help participants reflect on the case you can use a case reflection form (see practical tips).

2
Introduction

Start the session by welcoming participants and by giving a short introduction to the exercise. Explain the aim of the exercise properly.  Please keep in mind that this exercise is not about personal opinions/judgements on what each participant would do in the case, or to justify or condemn what the case-owner did (or did not). Participants should be willing to engage in a dialogue and learn from each other. This should be stressed at the beginning of the session. Also, as a facilitator you should take into account that being a case presenter can be challenging and emotionally burdensome. It is your responsibility to protect the case presenter and call for a time-out in case the conversation becomes too heavy or uncomfortable.  

3
Confidentiality

At this stage it is important to stress confidentiality. During the session a real-life dilemma will be explored, therefore participants are required to keep the information shared during the session strictly confidential. You are strongly recommended to distribute and sign a confidentiality statement in order to formalize the fact that the information you receive, and the ones that will be shred during the exercise should be kept confidential by all participants and by you and will be destroyed after the training.

4
Orientation: case and dilemma

Invite the case presenter to describe the case (previously selected) by focusing on why the case is experienced as morally troublesome.  You and the group can help the case presenter to formulate the (two sides of) the dilemma (i.e. should I do A or B?). Yet, the case presenter determines what is the right formulation of their dilemma. In this phase try to focus on two alternative courses of action and avoid exploring third options or creative solutions. This helps to bring focus to the dialogue and encourages people not to start looking for a quick solutions or a way out of the dilemmas. Write down the dilemma and key words describing the case on a flip-chart.

5
Replacing and clarification

In this step you invite participants to put themselves in the case presenter’s shoes and think about which facts in the case need more clarification to gain a better understanding of the situation. All the relevant questions, which enable participants to put themselves in the shoes of the case presenter, should be asked at this point.

6
Explaining how to fill in the tables about virtues and norms

Once the case is clear you ask participants to put themselves in the case presenter’s shoes and think about which virtue(s) (two are enough but more are also welcome) would play a role in the specific dilemma, if they were in the case presenter’s situation. You can ask them:

“If you were in the case presenter’s situation and had to decide what to do, which virtue would be important for you in order to make this decision?”

Please note that virtues should not necessarily be linked to one of the options. In this step participants should reflect on which moral character (virtue) they should embody in order to act with integrity in the situation at stake.  Contextually, you ask them to reflect about which rule of action (norm) or behaviour follows from the virtue they selected themselves. They can ask themselves

“What should I do in this situation in order to act in accordance with this virtue?” “What rule of action should I follow in order to embody this virtue in this situation?”

Please note that different norms can be related to the same virtue and vice versa.  

7
Refreshing concepts of virtue and norm

Before moving forward provide participants with a short definition of virtues and norms (please see Values and norms and Virtues in research integrity) If people have question or doubts you can address them at this stage.  

8
Filling in the virtues and norms table

Ask participants to fill in a table with the same elements (see below), for example:

Virtue Norm/action
Justice I should credit all contributors
Courage I should speak up


A hand-out with a list of Research Integrity related virtues, a table examples and an empty table can be distributed (see practical tips). Together with the empty table you distribute some post-its. 

In the meantime, draw the same table on a flip-chart (or white board) with three columns: perspective, virtue, norm (see below). You can also consider doing this in advance, before the session.

Name Virtue Norm/action
Louise Justice I should credit all the contributors
Courage I should speak up
Ben …..


Ask all the participants to write their virtues and norms on a post-it (in clear and readable letters) and then invite them to stand up and go to the table you drew on the flip-chart to write down their own name and place their post-its with their virtue(s) and norms next to their name. In this way an overview of perspectives, virtues and norms is created.

9
Dialogue by means of differences and similarities (15 min)

Invite participants to look at the overview and asks the following questions in order to foster reflection:

o          What do you perceive as remarkable?

o          Are there similarities/differences between different perspectives? Are they in conflict with each other?

o          Are these virtues also mentioned or implied in the ECoC? If yes which ones?

o          Are we able to select a virtue which is supposed to be the most important in this situation? If so, why is this selected virtue the most important?

o          Putting yourselves in the case presenter’s shoes: what do you need (concretely) to act upon the virtue which the group selected? Are there any constraints?

Report people’s answers on the board. You can use different colours, underline words and take short notes.

If you are using this exercise for the first time please use the above questions to facilitate a dialogical reflection. Don’t forget to mention the ECoC. You could even consider bringing a copy of the code with you. Do not take too long for each question. If people start debating or if they go off topic direct them back towards the question at stake.

If people cannot agree on one virtue that is also fine. Report the different conclusions on the table.

TIP:

Don't be afraid of silence. Let people think about the answer. Give them time but not too much, if there are no inputs move on.

10
Conclusions

Invite participants to think about the entire process: what is the take home message of this session for them? Try to draw conclusions by asking participants:

o          Was it easy or difficult to relate the virtues and norms to each other? How/why so?

o          Did putting yourself in the case presenter’s shoes broaden the way you looked at virtues and, consequently norms and behaviors?

o          Did the virtues and norms/behaviors identified by others help you to look at virtues differently or more broadly? Do you think that will influence your thinking on ERI dilemmas in practice?

Remarks

List of contributors:

Giulia Inguaggiato, Margreet Stolper

For their feedback and contribution, we would like to thank: Signe Mezinska, Armin Schmolmüller, Rea Scepanovic, Tom Lindermann and Daniel Pizzolato, Erika Lofstrom, Solveig Corner.

This training has been developed by the VIRT2UE project, which has received funding form the European Union’s H2020 research programme under grant agreement N 741782.

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