Active Grants (Completed grants can be viewed here)
ER2: Institutional Transformation: Transforming Cultures of Responsible Research through the Development of Ethics Expertise and Self-Efficacy among Faculty through Social Networks. See NSF webpage.
The goal of this project is to transform cultures of responsible research throughout Virginia Tech, developing a research-based model of peer-to-peer RCR education that can ultimately be used beyond the university. To do so, this project consists in (1) conducting research on ethics expertise, self-efficacy, and research climates among STEM faculty and (2) developing educational interventions, empowering researchers to engage with ethical issues in their own work. To ensure interventions have an institutional impact, the project will conduct research on social norms in faculty networks, leveraging these results to ensure perspectives on and practices in RCR come to have the broadest possible impact. This project is novel in three main ways: it (1) develops faculty expertise in ethics, so they can proactively identity and address discipline-specific ethical issues that arise in their everyday research; (2) improves faculty self-efficacy in ethics, so they can confidently communicate about research ethics; (3) leverages faculty social networks, ensuring a model of responsible research education that is scalable, sustainable, and transferable. Team members will leverage their leadership positions in professional organizations and relationships in government to promote the merits and facilitate the adoption of this program elsewhere. The project will also encourage faculty, especially those participating in our intervention programs, to share this model with their networks outside Virginia Tech through cross-institutional research collaborations and academic engagement with industry.
Collaborative Research: Developing a Quantification System for Robot Moral Agency. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). In collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Phillips (George Mason University, Lead institution) and Dr. Tom Williams (Colorado School of Mines).
Measuring or quantifying moral agency is of critical importance for human-robot interaction research. Although there have been some recent attempts to develop scales that might achieve this goal, these approaches do not align with the philosophical literature on machine moral agency, and moreover, mistake agency (which we argue to be an ontological state of being) for a psychological construct. In this work, we thus seek to develop a tool for quantifying moral agency that better aligns with the philosophical literature which offers rigorous frameworks for conceptualizing machine moral agency. Specifically, we aim to create new methods for quantifying Moral Agency in which researchers (1) separately assess the core constructs of moral agency: capacity for moral action, autonomy, interactivity, and adaptability (the MIAA scales), and (2) logically combine the outputs of those scales. We will draw upon experimental psychological approaches for construct measure development and merge them with techniques rooted in mathematical logic and philosophical theory for determining robots’ ontological status as moral agents. We will also demonstrate the usefulness of the MIAA scales to assess moral agency of artificial agents and the logical procedures for combining the four constructs measured with the scales in empirical studies.
Exploring the Eco-ethical Identity for Responsible AI Research among Faculty and Students. ICTAS Diversity & Inclusion Seed Investment Grant, Virginia Tech.
This ICTAS Diversity & Inclusion See Investment grant will allow me and my research group in Engineering Education to build direct faculty-to-faculty research partnerships with Dr. Megan Kenny Feister (Communication Program) and Dr. Sean Ferguson (Environmental Science & Resource Management) at the California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI). Our cross-institutional research collaboration will focus on how faculty and students in AI-related fields make sense of the ecological impacts of AI technologies and how these impacts are related to and/or challenged by their professional identity. Despite the transformative impacts AI technologies will bring to us and future generations, researchers and organizations globally have recently become concerned about the broader ecological impacts of AI technologies including AI’s role in climate change. It has become imperative for engineering educators to think creatively and critically about how to cultivate an “ecoethical identity” among AI researchers responsive and reflexive to the ecological impacts of AI technologies.
Collaborative Research: Growing a Community of Compassionate Higher Education Teachers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Templeton Foundation. See project website.
Our project aims to develop a community of compassionate teachers who are dedicated to bringing a loving mindset into their classrooms. This proposal targets STEM higher education teachers, but we hypothesize that shifts in teacher classroom attitudes and practices will affect student character development. In the future, insights from this project can be further extended to education in other fields and at different levels, particularly K-12 education. We are interested in exploring the following lines of inquiry: (1) What does a character of love (heart) in the STEM-classroom in higher education mean, and in what ways might it be expressed to be beneficial for students and teachers? (2) How can we grow a character of love in STEM teachers in higher education, and how is this shaped by their beliefs and practice? (3) How can a character of love be nurtured in STEM higher education teachers?
Teaching with a Heart will use workshops and subsequent community building among participants to assist teachers to become aware of their beliefs and attitudes about their teaching roles, to reframe these beliefs and attitudes in a positive way, and to incorporate a character of love into their teaching practice in STEM higher education.
ER2: Collaborative Research: Responsible Engineering across Cultures: Investigating the Effects of Culture and Education on Ethical Reasoning and Dispositions of Engineering Students. See NSF webpage.
The goal of this project is to identify educational interventions with the greatest effects on ethical reasoning and dispositions of engineering students, whether these effects differ among cultural and national groups, and if/how to modify these interventions to respond effectively to cultural and national differences. To do so, researchers from Colorado School of Mines, University of Pittsburgh, Delft University of Technology, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University will implement mixed-method, quasi-experimental, longitudinal, and cross-sectional research to: (1) determine the effects of culture and foreign language on the ethical perspectives of first-year engineering students; (2) assess the relative effects of culture and education on these perspectives over four years; (3) use engineering ethics assessment tools across cultures and countries to examine their cross-cultural validity. Findings from this project will be essential to develop educational interventions that effectively respond to the globalized environments of contemporary engineering practice. They will also contribute to the development of more inclusive engineering education, by identifying perspectives potentially marginalized in the reigning paradigms. Finally, this project has implications for the development of responsible research education at the graduate level. Despite the fact graduate student bodies in STEM fields have become increasingly international, limited work has focused on developing culturally responsive ethics curricula for graduate students from diverse backgrounds.