When I was growing up, I did not dream of becoming a philosopher of science; I dreamt of becoming a scientist. As a teen, I worked my first job in a soil ecology lab at a marine reserve on the Northern California coast. I went to college in San Diego at least partly so that I could take part in the biotech revolution, and I started out as a Biochem / Chem double major there. The early experiences that I had working in science are what led me towards philosophy of science instead. What I saw in the field, at the bench, and in the classroom raised questions for me about many aspects of scientific knowledge and practice. Some of those questions have been answered for me by now; in the case of others, including new ones, I am still looking for answers today. Many of the questions that I study are generated by interaction between science and values.
As a philosopher of science and values, I study all kinds of value commitments in science—aesthetic, epistemic, ethical, metaphysical, methodological, moral, political, and social—while paying special attention to how these commitments shape and are shaped by scientific practice and principle. Research ethics is one domain in which many persons, from both within science and outside of it, have typically acknowledged the relationship between our ethical, moral, and social commitments and our scientific practices. This sort of acknowledgement does not always happen! I find all this quite fascinating, and so the domain of research ethics is one in which I currently do a lot of work—across all three typical academic categories of research, teaching, and service.
teaching responsible conduct of research
One way in which I engage with research ethics is by offering class-based content in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR), often to scientific practitioners-in-training. Both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) require RCR training for those conducting federally-funded research at American research universities like the University of Utah. I teach for-credit graduate-level academic courses designed to meet federal and institutional RCR requirements; I also offer introductory sessions and topically-specific one-offs on an as-needed basis for partners across "the U" and collaborators elsewhere.
I typically cover the following ten topics in my 8-week-long, comprehensive RCR courses, and can readily cover one or two of them in a standalone, hour-long session:
Animal subjects research
Authorship, peer review, and publication
Collaboration and interdisciplinarity
Conflict of interest and commitment
Data acquisition, management, and use
Human subjects research
Mentoring in a safe environment
Research misconduct and policy
Scientists as responsible members of society
The replication crisis
All of my teaching materials are publicly available and I am happy to answer any inquiries about content, method, or availability. Just send an email to joyceDOThavstadATutahDOTedu
research ethics consultation
Lots of the ethical rules and regulations pertaining to research have been worked out already, and figuring out how to conduct responsible research is in many cases just a matter of knowing that legal and moral landscape, as well as how to traverse it. Sometimes, however, you might encounter issues in the course of your research practice for which there is genuine uncertainty about how to proceed with integrity. Happily, should you find yourself in either of these situations—needing to know the rules, or figuring out what to do when there are no rules—there is expert aid available, in the form of Research Ethics Consults (RECs).
Historically speaking, RECs are a service that developed out of the tradition of offering Clinical Ethics Consults (CECs) at hospitals—except RECs are for the research rather than the treatment context, in clinical but also other kinds of research setting. I am currently the lead of the REC service at the University of Utah, and any member of our community is welcome to reach out to me and request a consult. RECs are voluntary, discreet, informal, and advisory—never dictatorial—sessions in which any clinical, scientific, or other researcher can get one-on-one or team-based moral aid in perplexing research situations. It does not matter what kind of research or scholarly activity you do; regardless of type, you are welcome to request a consult. It does not matter what kind of position you hold at "the U"— you are welcome to request a consult whether you are student, faculty, staff, or otherwise. Actually, you do not even have to be at the University of Utah yourself, in order to request a consult; you can reach out for help merely on the basis of having any sort of professional relationship with someone who is a researcher at "the U."
From astronomy to zoology, all research areas have access to this service. Your research practice or scholarly activity might raise questions about authorship, collaboration, compensation, data acquisition and management, informed consent, privacy and publicity, recruitment and enrollment, return of results, and more. You might have a query about—for instance—how to responsibly conduct research on ethnicity or race in medicine, how to navigate a hostile work climate or a strained mentoring relationship, how to design a study in both an ethical and epistemically rigorous way, or how to responsibly perform community engagement practices and outreach. Regardless of the research domain or issue, RECs are available as a resource for you. To enquire about the service or request a consult, just send an email to recsATutahDOTedu
ombudship, mediation, training, and outreach
I am a trained and certified Ombuds, and I serve in that capacity for my primary professional society, the Philosophy of Science Association. I am also a trained and certified Multiparty Conflict Mediator. Both of these skillsets are integral to my work as REC service lead at the University of Utah.
If you are interested in, e.g., acquiring these skills yourself, setting up a REC service of your own, or even just pursuing research ethics as a course of study, please do not hesitate to reach out to me:
The University of Utah's Department of Philosophy has a graduate program and I welcome interest from potential students who might wish to work in the philosophy of science and values, research ethics, or related areas
I have presented nationally—at the biannual meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, as well as at the annual meeting of the Association of Research Integrity Officers—on what a REC service can offer, along with what it takes to set one up
I also conduct either digital or in-person, on-site visits at institutions looking to develop a REC service for themselves or improve an existing one. If you would like my help in learning about this kind of service and how to set up and / or run one, please do not hesitate to ask!
And I am happy to recommend the following training courses in Ombudship and Mediation and Conflict Management (offered by, respectively, the International Ombuds Association and Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation)
Finally, if you are a member of the Philosophy of Science Association and you wish to contact me in my capacity as Ombuds of that organization, just send an email to ombudsATphilsciDOTorg