The Role of Culture and Acculturation in Researchers’ Perceptions of Rules in Science

Science and Engineering Ethics 24 (2):361-391 (2018)
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Abstract

Successfully navigating the norms of a society is a complex task that involves recognizing diverse kinds of rules as well as the relative weight attached to them. In the United States, different kinds of rules—federal statutes and regulations, scientific norms, and professional ideals—guide the work of researchers. Penalties for violating these different kinds of rules and norms can range from the displeasure of peers to criminal sanctions. We proposed that it would be more difficult for researchers working in the U.S. who were born in other nations to distinguish the seriousness of violating rules across diverse domains. We administered a new measure, the evaluating rules in science task, to National Institutes of Health-funded investigators. The ERST assessed perceptions of the seriousness of violating research regulations, norms, and ideals, and allowed us to calculate the degree to which researchers distinguished between the seriousness of each rule category. The ERST also assessed researchers’ predictions of the seriousness that research integrity officers would assign to the rules. We compared researchers’ predictions to the seriousness ratings of 112 RIOs working at U.S. research-intensive universities. U.S.-born researchers were significantly better at distinguishing between the seriousness of violating federal research regulations and violating ideals of science, and they were more accurate in their predictions of the views of RIOs. Acculturation to the U.S. moderated the effects of nationality on accuracy. We discuss the implications of these findings in terms of future research and education.

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