Developing values-driven, effective leaders and advancing institutional integrity through intentional professional development

The National Center for Professional & Research Ethics (NCPRE) is dedicated to creating and supporting academic cultures of excellence: excellence in mission quality; excellence in exemplary leadership; and excellence in ethical and responsible conduct.

NCPRE is housed in the Coordinated Science Laboratory in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We started with an NSF-funded project in scientific research ethics, and have come to see that fostering an ethical climate is inseparable from a wider culture of institutional integrity and principled, effective leadership. For us, leadership—and particularly ethical leadership—is a key component of setting institutional tone and promoting excellence in professional interactions and achievements. While this scope could still be called “ethical,” it is well beyond traditional conceptions of research ethics per se.

For us, intentional leadership development, institutional integrity, and cultures of academic excellence are linked. We create tools and resources to inspire, support and evaluate them all.

Our premise is that excellence is about more than what is achieved; it also encompasses how work is done, and by whom. This means that exceptional scholarship, done ethically, is done in inclusive working environments, with positive interpersonal dynamics, and in ways that develop, mentor, and support lab members to build productive, meaningful careers. Research groups and academic units do not only produce data and results: they also reproduce and sustain themselves as effective ongoing collaborations, which in turn builds and contributes to the talent pool of the wider research community.  

The underlying values and norms that create this kind of institutional culture are set by institutional leaders:  their communication, their tone, the models of professional conduct they exemplify, the expectations they set, and the inclusiveness they foster. Cultures of excellence are ones that operate with rigor, reproducibility, inclusion, and integrity. Leaders recognize that responsible conduct of research does not occur in a vacuum, and that environments shape individual actions. Working effectively with others to produce quality research requires fostering professional skills and dispositions that are not always provided in the course of discipline-focused education, nor are they addressed in compliance-based Responsible Conduct of Research training.  Developing these broader skills and dispositions is at the core of what we do.

We are fortunate to be able to draw on the expertise of a broad range of consultants, and together with them the NCPRE team draws on a number of previously developed, evidence-based, and time-tested strategies, tools, and skills.

In all its activities, NCPRE is committed to forming, developing, and supporting academic cultures of excellence.

  • We recognize that no one seeks disaster, and few people knowingly act unethically; small choices are important in setting personal and ethical pathways.
  • Institutional context, organizational culture, peer influences, and setting an example at the top all contribute to promoting an ethical professional climate—or its opposite.
  • We create tools, systems, and resources to help universities and other institutions educate their members about ethics, including the responsible conduct of research.
  • We define professional and research ethics as the smart choice, not just the right choice; they promote effectiveness and productivity in the long run.
  • We help institutions assess the integrity of their environments, and develop strategies for improving them.
  • We develop leaders using evidence-based, practical, applied strategies that include self-reflection and ethical values.
  • When things go wrong, we provide strategies for improving matters and setting a better course of action.
  • We help emerging professionals, from high school on, to understand the importance of their ethical and professional choices, and to view themselves as responsible leaders.




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