July 25, 2017

CUR’s Code of ethics for undergraduate research

Posted by Laura Guertin

An inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline. — Definition of undergraduate research, from CUR

At the recent Business Meeting of the Council on Undergraduate Research, the CUR Councilors unanimously approved a Code of Ethics for Undergraduate Research. The code was developed from contributions of CUR members and code of ethics models from the National Association of Fellowships Advisors, the Forum on Education Abroad, and the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.
This publication is targeted towards students, faculty, and administrators involved with undergraduate research (broadly-defined). The Code covers areas such as personal conduct of faculty members and students, organizational and institutional conduct, conflict of interest, and relationship of mentors and mentees.
The CUR Code of Ethics for Undergraduate Research is available online as a PDF to CUR members and non-members: https://www.cur.org/assets/1/7/Code_of_Ethics.pdf
This document is a welcome addition to the paucity of research ethics publications that are directed towards or even include addressing undergraduate student researchers. In 1999, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society, published The Responsible Researcher: Paths and Pitfalls addressing undergraduate researchers through Deans of faculty (Sigma Xi has additional ethics publications available online). The University of Delaware has a small collection of undergraduate research case studies for students to read/review/discuss. Most publications are for graduate students and more advanced researchers, such as the National Academy of Sciences’ On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research (free PDF available online).
Note that CUR’s Code is in no way meant to be a replacement to existing research certifications and protocols established by universities and organizations.
In addition to discussing research ethics with students and departments, faculty may want to review ethics and expectations in the discipline. For example, AGI has Guidelines for Ethical Professional Conduct in the geosciences.