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 Tuesday, April 13, 2010 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


New Graduate Student Group Supports Cross Disciplinary Collaboration
by Allison Sylvest, University Communications

The Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement (IECE) recently awarded a seed grant through the graduate school to support a new interdisciplinary graduate student organization, the Forum on Science Ethics and Policy (FOSEP). The goal of the organization is to foster “civic scholars” on campus, to stimulate multidisciplinary discussions on issues at the intersection of science and society, and to engage with the public and policy makers at national and local levels.

The group formed in fall semester of 2009 under the initiation of Ursula Kay Rick, professional research assistant at CIRES, and research associate for CIMB, Melanie Roberts. “Some graduate students were already meeting informally, and we wanted to support more interdisciplinary work,” said Rick. “FOSEP brings together people who are familiar with all sides of and issue to discuss and understand society, policy and the intersection of science.”

FOSEP has already demonstrated great initiative, enthusiasm and successes. Discussions around ethics and how science is practiced have helped to pave the way for meeting NSF grant requirements in terms of responsible conduct of research training, and learning the process of choosing a balanced panel for scientific advising. Along with mentoring, administrative support and interdisciplinary opportunities, participants learn leadership skills by bringing special guest speakers to campus, and meeting with other experts across disciplines to network and form possible collaborations.

Peter Simons, director of IECE, is pleased to provide the seed funding through the institute. “FOSEP will help to break down the walls and enable graduate students to explore solutions and examine opportunities together,” he said.

FOSEP goals include:

  • Transcending boundaries – there are currently over 20 members from 14 different departments across campus.
  • Enhancing graduate education – the next generation of leaders who will be taking on some of the complex challenges of the 21st century, and FOSEP can fill a void felt by many graduate students in their community service education.
  • Diversity – fostering connections between current students and alums, and working to improve connections between the university and society to widen the range of influence and education.

During the fall of 2009, FOSEP held two discussion groups. The first explored geoengineering as a solution to climate change with the participation of a member of the Nationals Academies Panel on Geoengineering, and the second examined the new NSF mandate for responsible conduct of research training with the head of CU's steering committee.

FOSEP leaders are currently working to bring Neal Lane, former science advisor to the Clinton Administration, to speak in the Spring 2010 semester.

“We’re looking to get the word out to graduate students, so that they can get involved and benefit from the support of other students, researchers, faculty and colleagues from outside of the university,” said Rick.

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