Two Virginia Tech researchers, who previously collaborated on studies involving lead contamination in water, are now co-developing an interdisciplinary graduate engineering and science ethics course.
A $ 350,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will create a four-part ethics program based on a 2010 pilot course jointly developed by Marc Edwards, the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil Engineering and a MacArthur Fellow, and Yanna Lambrinidou, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies of Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region.
The course emphasizes the importance of seeking out and listening to the concerns of diverse stakeholders as a “best practice” for engineers and scientists.
“If engineers and scientists of the 21st century are to expand their traditional responsibility of problem-solving to include problem-defining, they must have the skills to work collaboratively with the public,” said Lambrinidou.
The original pilot course was started with grant funding from an initiative jointly sponsored by the Virginia Tech Institute for Society, Culture and Environment; the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Sciences; and the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.
Edwards and Lambrinidou first teamed up during a now famous study of lead contamination from drinking water pipes in several Washington, D.C. neighborhoods.
Congressional investigators later characterized the contamination as a “public health tragedy.” The two researchers later collaborated on a $ 450,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant that took a new look at the federal Lead and Copper Rule.
The new grant is a natural extension of their experiences and observations. Other Virginia Tech partners involved with the ethics modules include the Virginia Tech Public Health Program, and the Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program’s Water Interface and Sustainable Nanotechnology programs.