Educating for Responsible Research Practice in Biomedical Sciences: Towards Learning Goals

Elianne M. Gerrits, Annelien L. Bredenoord & Marc H. W. van Mil

Published: 2021


New developments in the field of biomedicine can have extensive implications for society. To steer research efforts in a responsible direction, biomedical scientists should contribute to a forward-looking ethical, and societal evaluation of new developments. However, the question remains how to equip students sufficiently with the skills they need to contribute to this evaluation. In this paper, we examine how the four dimensions of Responsible Research and Innovation (anticipation, reflexivity, inclusivity, and responsiveness) inform the identification of learning goals and teaching approaches that contribute to developing these skills in biomedical scientists. We suggest that these educational approaches focus on the skills to anticipate intended and unintended outcomes, reflect on the epistemological and moral aspects of research practice, and be inclusive of the variety of voices in society. We argue that if these dimensions are properly integrated into biomedical curricula, they will help students develop the attitudinal aspects necessary for becoming responsive, and prepare them for implementing the dimensions of responsible research into their daily practice. This paper focuses specifically on skills biomedical scientists need for the responsible conduct of research. Therefore, our analysis results, at least in part, in domain-specific recommendations. We invite educators from other disciplines to do the same exercise, as we believe this could lead to tailored educational approaches by which students from various disciplinary backgrounds learn how they each have a role in contributing to socially robust and morally responsible research practice.

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