University of California, Riverside

Graduate Division

Institutional Re-engineering of Ethical Discourse in STEM


Through an NSF Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM [CCE-STEM] grant, the University of California, Riverside is initiating a new campus initiative for the cultivation of ethical climates and practices in STEM research, using a novel online communications platform combined with project-based training designed to be compatible with that platform.

We plan to deploy and evaluate a campus-wide interdisciplinary project by examining the effects of two randomized interventions, separately and combined, and in comparison with a fourth control group receiving the standard training in the responsible conduct of research (RCR)/research ethics that currently exists on campus. The overarching goal is to re-engineer ethical discourse in STEM research at the university.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the purpose of this research?

A: The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of innovative educational approaches to establishing an institutional culture of good and ethical research practices in the STEM fields at UCR. Research labs/teams who are enrolled into the study will be randomized to receive one of three novel educational interventions intended to enhance research ethical practices, and the study will evaluate the extent to which the interventions change attitudes and behaviors regarding the responsible conduct of research. 

The pool of eligible potential participants is composed of all UCR research teams in CNAS and BMS that have active research projects.  These teams include the PI, postdocs, graduate students, research scientists, lab technicians, undergraduates, and any other personnel who conduct research activities for the project (excluding undergraduates).

Q: What will the procedure be if I join the project?

A: This study has several parts. After you consent to participate, we will: 1.) ask for a roster of lab personnel and 2.) we will ask to be invited to a lab meeting, or at another time when the majority of your lab personnel will be in attendance, to explain the study to your lab members, distribute the consent form, and answer any questions that may arise.

We will then begin the randomization process at the point that we have consent for the lab. It is possible that, despite having consented, you and your lab will not be chosen to be part of the research project.

If you and your lab are chosen to participate, you and consenting members of your research will be randomized to one of two groups: one group will receive an educational intervention, and the other group will receive the non-intervention [control] condition.

We will also be asking for a volunteer – a graduate student or post-doc – to serve as a “peer mentor” and to help deliver the training in the intervention condition.

A subset of research teams, upon consent, will  be randomly assigned to participate in an ethnographic study, which is an important qualitative component of this project. The first ethnographic observations will begin after group assignments have been made, but before the interventions have been delivered. The second ethnographic observations will be conducted at the conclusion of the interventions; the ethnographic team will be observing your lab three times during two to three months post-intervention. Lab observations will focus on interactions related to collaboration on projects and data sharing, and may include attendance at research meetings and presentations.

Q: How long will I be involved?

A: The study runs over the course of three years, though the interventions described herein happen only in the span of a little over 6 months.  Your estimated total time will be between 1.5 and 6.5 hours of active participation, depending on the randomization. All of the study procedures -- the ethnographic observation and the educational intervention -- will take place in your lab. The in-depth interview, as part of the ethnographic study, may happen at a location of your choosing.

Q: What are the risks or discomforts involved in this research?

A: There are no foreseeable risks. While we do not anticipate that your participation will cause harm, it is possible that you will feel discomfort in answering some of the survey and / or interview questions or being part of the ethnographic observations.  You can decline to answer any question, or with draw from the study, at any time.

Q: Are there any benefits involved in this research?

A: There are no direct benefits to you for participating in this research; however, by participating you are helping to provide information that may lead to recommendations to enhance the ethical climate for research on campus.

Q: Will my information be private?

A: Confidentiality will be maintained to the extent allowed by law. However, the study team members are required by California law to report suspected child or elder abuse to the appropriate authorities should we be made aware of that.

While we have prior access to names and email addresses for the PIs and co-PIs who are part of this research, and will get from them the names and email addresses of personnel in their labs, each and every participant is given a unique identifier and all data collected from or about each participant after recruitment uses only that unique identifier. The master list of name/email address and unique identifier is kept on a password protected, encrypted server and accessible only to the research team.

All research records will be stored in a locked office in a locked file cabinet and will only be accessible to research staff listed on the first page of this consent form. The master list of identifiers linking your name to your unique numeric identifier will be destroyed at the conclusion of the data collection for this study.

The results of your participation in this study may be used for publication or for scientific purposes, but the results will not include any information that could identify you or your lab/team or individual members of your team.  All reports or publications resulting from this study will use aggregated data only, and there will be no identifying information shared below the level of the university. When you join the project and sign the consent, you agree to the sharing of de-identified data with other researchers. To de-identify the data, we will not share your identity directly, nor will we disclose data in a way that others can reconstruct your identity (either by grouping demographic and lab/team level information into coarser categories or adding random noise to the data). 

Q: Will it cost me anything to participate?

A: There are no costs to you for participation

Q: Will I be paid for my participation in the research?

A: You will not be paid to participant in this study, but your lab will receive up to $1000, to be used for travel funds for the graduate student research personnel of your lab. Your lab will receive the funds at the conclusion of the study. Should your lab withdraw at any point before the study concludes, you will receive funding in the about of $500.

Contact Us
If you have any questions or want to set up a time to meet in person to discuss being involved in the project please contact Dena Plemmons at or Kevin Esterling at

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Contact Information

Graduate Division
University Office Building

Tel: (951) 827-4302
Fax: (951) 827-2238