University of Illinois launches online ethics resource for researchers, professionals


Kim Gudeman, CSL Communications

(URBANA, Ill.) -- The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has announced the formal launch of an interactive online resource to help researchers and professionals in the sciences, engineering and mathematics incorporate ethical practices into their professional lives.

Ethics CORE (, funded by the National Science Foundation, gathers and disseminates ethics resources, including educational curricula and online courses, reference materials, scholarly and research literature and resources available for use in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) education required by NSF and other funders of research. In addition, the site’s interactive community offers a place where users can publish and share scholarship, discuss ethics-related issues for professionals and researchers and develop and share new course offerings.

“From the outset, our goal has been to create a dynamic, one-stop environment where people can collaborate and discuss ethical questions and issues that arise on a daily basis,” said C. K. Gunsalus, director of the National Center for Professional & Research Ethics, which has developed Ethics CORE. NCPRE is part of the University of Illinois’ Coordinated Science Laboratory.

“Ethics CORE aims to help people seamlessly integrate ethics into their daily behavior by providing a toolbox of resources to meet their varied needs,” she said

Ethics CORE resources available for open use include:

  • 5,400 full-text articles and reports
  • 250,000 peer-reviewed journal articles
  • A full-text search capability for more than 45 professional society codes of ethics
  • More than 250 catalogued and indexed RCR instructional and support materials sites with drill-down limit and search capabilities
  • A beta version of the site, which launched in 2011, has already attracted nearly 900 registered users from across the world.

Users are encouraged to share resources that they have developed, and researchers from around the country have contributed everything from videos to role-acting activities. An additional 300 people at a range of institutions are taking specialized RCR courses developed at the University of Washington. In addition, instructors at Arizona State University and Rochester Institute of Technology have taught a multi-institution suite of courses on sustainability ethics using custom multi-user games and simulation exercises that have all been deposited on the Ethics CORE site.

The search functions are powered by some of the world’s most sophisticated search technology, much of which has been developed or enhanced at the University of Illinois.

“The National Science Foundation is proud to be a leader to invest and build a database for ethics resources,” said NSF Program Director Susan Sterett. “This invaluable material is available for students, professionals and researchers to use and share from a one-stop shop and user-friendly tool.”

Co-principal investigators include Taft Broome, Howard University (Civil Engineering); Nicholas Burbules, Illinois (Education); Michael Loui, Illinois, (Electrical and Computer Engineering); and William Mischo, Illinois (University Library). NCPRE Senior Advisors are Rebecca Sandefur, Illinois (Sociology and Law), Ken Pimple, Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions (Indiana University) and Joan Sieber, Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics.

In addition, Ethics CORE collaborates with several partner institutes and organizations that contribute content and expertise to the project. They include the National Academy of Engineering, Howard University, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE), the Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research organization and the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society at Illinois.

“As we seek to make unprecedented breakthroughs in the fields of science, mathematics and engineering, it’s important to continue weaving ethics into our behavior,” Gunsalus said. “Ethics CORE provides administrators, instructors, researchers, professionals and students with the resources they need to move us forward.”