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Langlais Appointed to Joint U.S.-China Committee on Ethics in Science

Philip Langlais

Old Dominion University faculty member Philip Langlais was appointed this summer to a joint steering committee of the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to coordinate initiatives involving ethics in science.

Langlais, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology at ODU, will be joined on the committee by three other AAAS representatives: Mark S. Frankel, director of the AAAS Scientific Freedom, Responsibility and Law Program; Elizabeth Heitman, associate professor, Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University; and Michael Kalichman, director, University of California-San Diego Research Ethics Program.

Members from CAST are Yang Wei, member of the Committee on Scientists' Ethics and Rights (CSER) and president of Zhejiang University; Gong Ke, member of CSER and president of Tianjin University; Yan Chunhua, member of CSER and director of the State Key Laboratory of Rare Earth Materials Chemistry and Applications, Peking University; and Sun Mengxin, deputy director general, Department of International Affairs, CAST.

The formation of the committee resulted from three years of top-level discussions between CAST and AAAS. In a statement, the two organizations said the committee will encourage collaborations between policymakers, scientists, educators, and students that "can be used in both countries to advance and apply knowledge on ethical issues associated with the conduct and application of scientific research."

"It is expected that the establishment of this committee will help build up a new platform for Chinese and U.S. scientists to conduct in-depth dialogue on ethics in science and contribute to the advancement of science," said Mme Deng Nan, executive vice president and chief executive secretary of CAST.

"This collaboration will not only benefit the scientific communities in the U.S. and China," said AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner, "but the shared knowledge gained from it can be extremely useful to many other countries dealing with ethics issues within their own societal contexts."

In April 2009, the two organizations organized a three-day conference in San Diego to plan further joint projects in ethics education. Scholars and educators from the two countries discussed the possibility of creating new surveys on misconduct; exchanges on training ethics educators; a collection of case studies; and a practical guidebook on ethics in science.

Langlais, who stepped down this month as ODU's vice provost of graduate studies and research to work full-time as a professor of psychology, participated in the first World Conference on Research Integrity in Lisbon in 2007 and he was a invited presenter at the second World Conference last week in Singapore. Through leadership roles in the national Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools, he has promoted a responsible conduct in research (RCR) agenda he started at ODU more than six years ago.

As vice provost he led ODU's participation in a CGS pilot program to develop best practices for comprehensive ethics and RCR education in graduate programs. ODU got an initial grant in 2004 to fund its participation and in 2006 the university successfully applied for support in the second wave of the CGS program. An ODU task force led by Langlais conducted research on campus to gauge student and faculty perceptions and skills regarding ethical decision-making and to frame a general plan for the ethics training. These efforts culminated in the establishment of an ODU policy that requires all graduate students to receive training in RCR.

This article was posted on: July 27, 2010

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