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Scientific Ethics 

Introduction to Course

Formal and informal training in research ethics is an important aspect of the professional development of scientists and engineers. The rules, cultures and disciplinary differences are sometimes obvious and other times nuanced and it is important to know how to navigate and discriminate between hard and fast rules and not so clear conventions. Research ethics education may also be a requirement of a funding agency. This 14-hour course is delivered over 7-sessions and may be used to satisfy a NIH or NSF training requirement; however, whether course completion is used for that purpose is determined by the advisor and/or department.


Spring Schedule 2024 | Registration begins at Thursday, February 15, 10:00 a.m. (For current Winter schedule look in the Syllabus below)

Sections Instructor Days Dates Time Location



Stanley Lo 


Apr 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, May 6, 20

9:30 a.m. -  11:30 a.m. 

In Person


Karine Dubé


Apr 9, 16, 18, 23, 30, May 2, 14

1:00 p.m. -  3:00 p.m.


3 Mary Devereaux  Wednesdays Apr 3, 10, May 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.   Virtual


Barton Palmer


Apr 4, 11, 18, 25, May 9, 16, 23

10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

In Person



Anthony Magit



Apr 5, 12, 26, May 3, 10, 17 

May 17 (two sessions)


10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Final session: 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. 


In Person 


Scientific Ethics serves as an RCR training option for our UC San Diego research community (students, staff, and faculty), as well as San Diego Research Ethics Consortium members. 


  1. Use the Registration link above (when open) to secure a spot in your preferred section. The Research Ethics Program Coordinator will confirm your enrollment.
  • All participants will receive a 14-hour certificate upon completion.
  • Courses are capped at 20 and are expected to be full - Register as soon as possible to avoid being waitlisted. 

UC San Diego Graduate Student Course Information ONLY (for 1 unit academic credit)

  1. WebReg* is a secondary step only needed by graduate students in programs that require one of the courses listed below. Webreg enrollment is restricted to department majors. Students who have had their registration confirmed by the Research Ethics Program may also need to enroll in the appropriate webreg course to receive academic credit - completion of the 14-hour course is needed to receive a Satisfactory (S/U) grade. Please verify program requirements with your academic coordinator or reach out the Research Ethics Program with questions.  

*The Scientific Ethics Course is cross-listed under the following course numbers:

  • Biological Science: BGGN 207
  • Biomedical Sciences: BIOM 219
  • Bioengineering: BENG 292
  • Bioinformatics and Systems Biology: BNFO 294
  • Pathology: PATH 224 (for non-Pathology majors only) 



Scientific Ethics

Biological Science 207 / Biomedical Sciences 219 / Bioengineering 292 / Bioinformatics 294 / Pathology 224

Winter 2024 Instructors

Samm Hurst, PhD Email
Assistant Professor, Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health & Human Longevity Science

Mary Devereaux, PhD  | Email

Research Ethics Program Instructor, Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health & Human Longevity Science

Barton Palmer, PhD  | Email
Professor In Residence, Psychiatry

Time and Location

This course consists of 7 meetings, which will occur on the following dates/times, depending on the section you are placed in.

*Please note: Course sections will be finalized once registration closes. The Research Ethics Program Coordinator will email your section assignment based on your indicated preferences.  

Winter Schedule 2024 

Sections Instructor Days Dates Time Location



Samm Hurst 


Jan 10, 17, 24, 31, Feb 7, 14 & 21

3:00 p.m. -  5:00 p.m. 





Barton Palmer




Jan 18, 25, Feb 1, 8, 15, 22, & 29


10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


In Person 



Mary Devereaux 


Jan 12, 19, 26, Feb 9, 16, 23, & Mar 1

12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.  

In Person


Ethical aspects of behavioral and biomedical research can be complex as questions of community, social justice, culture, autonomy and individual rights are often difficult to recognize and navigate. The goal of this course is to learn about the dynamic field of research ethics including the rules, regulations, norms and conventions.

Students will explore the ethical, legal/regulatory and social implications (ELSI) of research across the phases of planning, conducting and reporting research. As ethics is dynamic, this seminar is designed to encourage inquiry of and discussion about ethical principles, regulations, conventions and organizational practices that support, and/or potentially compromise, the responsible and ethical conduct of research. Students will learn about the research ecosystem and consider how to influence the “health” of this ecosystem by applying an ecological systems model.


Formal and informal training in research ethics is an important aspect of the professional development of scientists and engineers. The rules, cultures and disciplinary differences are sometimes obvious and other times nuanced and it is important to know how to navigate and discriminate between hard and fast rules and not so clear conventions. Research ethics education may also be a requirement of a funding agency. This course may be used to satisfy a NIH or NSF training requirement; however, whether course completion is used for that purpose is determined by the advisor and/or department.

Course Aims and Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you will know or be able to:

  • Describe core content areas associated with research ethics.
  • Find and explain relevant codes, rules and regulations that guide the conduct of research in your discipline and profession.
  • Reflect on your role in influencing the “health” of the research ecosystem.

Course Format

Concepts will be introduced using a peer-led presentation/discussion format. This approach is used to help you to learn how to learn about identifying and navigating the ELSIs of our daily life in the research environment. Students are expected to be on time, attend all sessions, prepare in advance of class and be respectful of different opinions. NOTE: The course schedule or organization may be changed if necessary to better achieve the course objectives.


This course is available for credit (i.e., pass/fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory or a certificate of completion), not for a letter grade. To receive credit for the course or for the purpose of NIH or NSF training requirements, you must complete all assignments. This includes attending all 7 class meetings, completing assigned readings, participating in class discussions, and contributing to group assignments. If you need credit for this course, but find that you cannot meet these requirements, then you should contact one of the instructors as soon as possible.

Resources for Ethics Course

This document is provided as a starting point for resources on the topic of research ethics. While it is not intended to be comprehensive or definitive, it does include many options that should be helpful. 

Tentative Class Schedule

Session Selected Topics & Suggested Readings 
1 Introduction, Overview, Research Misconduct and Ecological Model
2 Bias, Conflict of InterestHuman Subjects
3 Animal Subjects, Biosafety
4 MentoringCollaboration
5 Questionable Research Practices/Rigor and Reproducibility, Data Management
6 Authorship, PublicationPeer ReviewSocial Responsibility, Whistleblowing (also, Gunsalus, 2010)
7 Faculty Panel (to be announced)
Additional Topics See Course Resources



If you find that you are unable to complete all course requirements, please contact the instructor for your section to discuss your options as soon as possible.

  1. Attendance and Participation

    To receive credit for completing this course, you must attend and participate in all seven meetings, including a review of assigned readings before the scheduled class time. Attendance at the first meeting is required, there is no option for a make-up assignment. Use of computers or phones in class is not permitted unless for course readings, assignments, or questions.

    If you must miss a class, please contact the course instructor and review options for alternate assignments in the Missed Lectures tab below. 

  2. Peer-Led Discussions

    You will facilitate a group discussion to explore a research ethics topic. To prepare, first become familiar with the topic and then, develop a plan to convey the information that you learn in a manner that is creative and informative. Each team (2 per day) will have about 7-10 minutes to briefly review a compelling, essential, problematic issue on the topic. You may also introduce a current event that highlights and clarifies the key issues. This assignment is not to prepare a lecture but to present a timely research ethics topic and, to then facilitate a discussion of this topic. We can discuss how to use polls, non-verbal feedback, hand raising and breakout rooms to support discussion. A presentation schedule, topics and group assignments will be provided in the first session.

    1. Ask questions if anything isn’t clear or you need help.
    2. Forward an outline of your plans to the course instructor no later than 5 days before your scheduled presentation.
    3. Forward a final version of your presentation and any other materials you plan to use to the course instructor no later than the day before your presentation.

    Your presentation should consist of 3 components:

    1. Introduction:
      • Focus on something compelling, essential, or problematic about the topic, as suggested by or evidenced in your readings and/or a current event.
      • Be brief. No more than 2 minutes; if using PowerPoint slides, no more than one slide - with large font.
    2. Current Event:
      • Find something timely (within the past year), interesting, and relevant with Google, Pubmed, Retraction Watch, newspaper, or science publications (popular or professional).
      • To search, just use various combinations or keywords to highlight issues of interest in combination with "research ethics" or "science," etc. It is ideal, but not essential, that the story should be about research.
    3. Discussion:
      • Part of your presentation can be didactic (e.g., brief "lecture"), but the goal is to engage the class in discussion.
      • Many options for promoting discussion are described, on the linked website: Discussion Tools.
      • The focus of your discussion might be the current event, a case study, a video, or some exercise you design
  3. Faculty Panel

    During the final class meeting, several faculty and/or research group leaders will join us to answer your questions and for an open discussion of the ethical dimensions of the practice of science. While it is hoped that all members of the panel adhere to the highest ethical and regulatory standards, their role as panelists is only to share their own research practices and perspectives.

    • You are required to provide questions to be asked of the faculty panel.
    • The instructor will provide guidance on question format and content, when the questions are due, and how they will be handled during the faculty panel.
  4. Evaluation 

    Before and/or after completion of the course, you will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire to assess knowledge, perceptions, and/or attitudes relevant to the course. These questionnaires are important for assessing the impact of the course.

Course Resources

Introduction to Research Ethics 

Selected topics


Conflicts of Interest

Correction of the Scientific Literature 

Data management

Metrics in Science


Open Science

Questionable Research Practices


Sociology of Science 


Videos in Ethics in Science and Technology

Center for Ethics in Science and Technology (videos):

Missed Lectures

Course policy on absences and missed assessments

This seminar is participatory, and you need to attend to participate. One absence can be made up if necessary.

Missed Sessions

If you will miss, or have missed, one meeting or session of the course, then at the discretion of the course instructor it is still possible to get credit for completion by submitting an alternate assignment to substitute for the missed class. While it is possible to make-up for missing two meetings of the course, it is necessary that at least one of the make-up assignments consist of attending the equivalent course meeting in another section of the course.

NOTE: All make-up assignments must be completed by no later than the last day of the quarter.

To determine which assignment(s) you must complete, contact the course instructor as soon as you know that you will miss one or more course meetings. 

Options for make-up assignments:

  1. If at all possible, the instructor and student will identify a relevant equivalent/replacement experience (e.g., the same session in another section of the current course or some other ethics seminar or workshop.) NOTE: In this case, it is the responsibility of the student to (a) confirm with the instructor of the other section that they would like to attend,(b) let the instructor know they are in class on the selected day, and (c) after the class send an e-mail to both instructors confirming their attendance.
  2. Submit a case study and analysis as described below and submit to the course instructor no later than the end of the day on the last day of the course.

Case Study and Analysis

  • Review all readings, if any, assigned for the session missed.
  • Find an appropriate case study (e.g., cases are included under the discussion tab for each of the topics at Research Ethics Topics) If the session does not match to a particular topic, then you may write your own case or find another case relevant to any topic covered in the class. If you write your own case, it should be no more than 500 words. If you use someone else’s case, you must give credit to the author of the case.
  • Write an analysis of the case that addresses the factors summarized in the document: Guidelines for case discussions
  • Your analysis must be original and based on your own ideas. It should be no more than 500 words and should be submitted to the course instructor by e-mail.

Faculty Panels

To provide more diverse perspectives and experience, the Scientific Ethics course includes a session with a faculty panel. Typically, this consists of 3-4 faculty from various disciplines who volunteer to join the course to engage in discussion of research ethics questions that the students have raised about responsible and good practices of research.

Fall 2023

Scientific Ethics (October 26, 2023): Brian Chen (instructor)

  • Carol Yan, Surgery  
  • Anthony Magit, Surgery
  • Erika Crable, Psychiatry
  • Alejandra Morlett Paredes, Neurosciences                          
  • Rany Salem, Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health & Human Longevity Science         
  • Eric Hekler, Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health & Human Longevity Science
  • Karine Dubé, Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health & Human Longevity Science

Scientific Ethics (November 14, 2023): Mary Devereaux (instructor)

  • Miles Wilkinson, OB/GYN & Reproductive Sciences
  • Ethan Bier,  Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Elliot McVeigh, Bioengineering (Engineering of Medicine)  
  • Radha Ayyagari, Ophthalmology

Scientific Ethics (December 7, 2023): Barton Palmer (instructor)

  • Diane Jacobs, Neurosciences
  • Scott Rifkin, Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution
  • Richard Kolodner, Cellular and Molecular Medicine
  • Geert Schmid-Schoenbein, Bioengineering

Faculty Panels by Academic Year

Refresher Options

Refresher Options

Who is this for?

If you have previously taken a research ethics course, but are now being asked to do so again, it may be appropriate for you to consider the refresher option.


The purpose of this option is to minimize the need for people to simply re-take the same or different course already completed.

Who decides if this is acceptable?

While a case can be made that this option for a refresher is a reasonable substitute for re-taking a research ethics course, it is not possible for the Research Ethics Program to make the determination as to whether this will meet any particular requirement. The decision about whether this is acceptable must be made by the group, organization, or agency that has set the requirement for a research ethics course.

How does it work?

Typically, the refresher option is defined by attendance and participation in four sessions (a total of 8 hours), other than the introductory meeting, of one of the Research Ethics Program courses. If you have verified that this option may be suitable for you, then contact the Research Ethics Program.

Is 8 hours enough?

Current NIH Guidelines call for a minimum of 8 hrs of interactive, in person, research ethics training at least every 4 years. 

Will a certificate be issued to those who complete the refresher option?