ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology


1, Nov 2023

Seminar on values in research

A joint seminar is being held with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technology (FLEET) to explore how understanding researcher values can improve scientific outcomes.

To be held on Nov 15, from 10-11am on  Zoom, it will be hosted by  Prof. Wendy Rogers, Distinguished Professor in the Philosophy Department and School of Medicine, Macquarie University, and Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Synthetic Biology (CoESB).

What values shape your research? What factors support and undermine these values and your ability to conduct your research?

How does this affect your partnerships with industry or venture capital groups and how can we manage conflicts of values?

How does an understanding of researcher and organisational values help achieve our goals including building a trusted, ethical and inclusive quantum ecosystem?

Prof Wendy Rogers will guide the group through these questions based on her own research with researchers in the CoESB.

At a general level, values can be thought of as beliefs that guide or motivate people to think or act in particular ways. Values inform our preferences and our views about what is worthwhile or meaningless, good or bad, right or wrong.

‘Given the role of values as drivers of motivation, I was curious about what values were important to researchers in the Centre of Excellence for Synthetic Biology (CoESB). That is, I wanted to know why they did the research they did. I also wanted to know what they saw as the values inherent in science (what makes ‘good’ science?); and what kinds of values or character traits ‘good’ scientists exhibit,’ says Prof Rogers.

The results indicate that the scientists were thoughtful in canvassing their motives for doing science, such as doing research that promotes human/ecological/planetary well-being, or that creates new knowledge. They identified objectivity and rigour as the main scientific values inherent to their research. Regarding character traits or virtues relevant to being a scientist, participants talked about passion, creativity, resilience, humility, honest, collaboration and communication.

Research participants noted various threats to the values they identified, such as time pressures to produce results, conflicts of interest raised by industry funding, difficulties in doing research that contributes to well-being, and challenges arising from power imbalances.

In this seminar, Prof Rogers will present the findings of the research, followed by a discussion of ways in which this research is relevant to members of FLEET. What are the barriers to conducting research that reflects your values and how can these be addressed?

To communicate the findings to CoESB members, Prof Rogers and her team made a short video, The Values Microbiome.

Prof Rogers works in the field of practical bioethics. Her program of research is characterised by identifying practical problems, undertaking conceptual analysis of the underlying philosophical and ethical issues, and developing responses that advance knowledge and contribute to practice.

In 2019 Prof Rogers received the NHMRC Ethics Award, was identified as the national research leader in the field of Bioethics by the Australian, and her research calling for retraction of unethical Chinese transplant research led to her inclusion in Nature’s 10 list of people who mattered in science in 2019, and Medscape’s 2019 Physicians of the year.