Conference brings professional ethics experts to Illinois


Max Tane, ECE Illinois

The second annual “Connecting Silos: Sharing Ideas and Best Practices in the Teaching of Professional & Research Ethics” conference was held May 29-30 at the University of Illinois. The conference was cosponsored by the National Center for Professional & Research Ethics (NCPRE) and the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society, both located on the University of Illinois campus. The nearly 30 participants hailed from universities across the region, with Illinois and the Big Ten being particularly strongly represented—although a few participants from as far away as Texas and Nebraska. Most participants were from either research ethics or business ethics backgrounds.


ECE Professor Michael C. Loui, a researcher in the Coordinated Science Lab, was one of the organizers of the conference. He has been part of NCPRE since its beginning and is one of its co-principal investigators. He has been working with ethics in engineering since 1993 and research ethics since 1998. During his time as a program director at NSF from 1990 to 1991, he was impressed with how the organization took ethics very seriously. After he returned to the University of Illinois, he was the research integrity officer for the campus from 1998 to 2000. Since then, he’s held many workshops and has visited many departments to talk about research ethics.

In addition to hosting conferences such as this, NCPRE works on expanding its online resource, Ethics CORE, which was started with a grant from the National Science Foundation in 2010. Ethics CORE provides both instructional and research-based items in responsible conduct of research. Some of the key components to Ethics CORE are a digital library with many resources, as well as an online forum for peer discussion.

The first day of the conference consisted of topical discussion groups and a keynote speaker. This year’s speaker was Michael Mumford of Oklahoma University, who discussed research of the effectiveness of professional ethics programs. The second day consisted of discussion group reports and demonstrations of instructional exercises. Dean Larry DeBrock of the College of Business also made a presentation.

The smaller size of this this regional conference enabled participants to exchange ideas across disciplines.

Compared to larger conferences in the field, “we get much more cross-disciplinary conversation at our conference,” said Loui. “In larger conferences, it’s so easy to just talk to people in fields you know about, but in this conference, we get a greater diversity of ideas when we connect these silos. We can learn a lot from people who are doing similar kinds of work, but in other disciplines.”

Loui added, “We would like to see more meetings like this.”