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Scientists in International Context
 

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The Scientists in International Context Research Initiative

Scientists in International Context is a multidimensional research program that investigates social influences on science, including ethics, religion, gender, and family. Organized as two related research projects—Religion among Scientists in International Context (RASIC) and Ethics among Scientists in International Context (EASIC)—the initiative is administered jointly through shared resources and infrastructure at Rice University, a preeminent research university located in Houston, Texas, with support from researchers and advisors around the world. RASIC is a study of how scientists view and are influenced by religion and spirituality. EASIC investigates how physicists approach ethical issues, with particular focus on research integrity and commercialization. Scientists in International Context is the first transnational study of these topics, with research conducted in several national and regional contexts, including China, France, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. To produce a nuanced, multi-contextual understanding of scientists’ perspectives, we use rigorous quantitative and qualitative methodologies, surveying approximately 22,525 scientists at all career stages—from graduate students to full professors and senior scientists. We focus on biologists and physicists—two core science disciplines that face different religious and ethical issues. The cross-national character of the study, as well as the participation of research scientists at different points in their careers and at more and less research-intensive institutions, makes possible previously unexamined individual, institutional, and regional comparisons. These comparisons, in turn, facilitate improved understanding of and better-informed public policy efforts regarding the role of science in society. The study is led by an interdisciplinary research team directed by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund (PI), biologist Kirstin Matthews (co-PI), and political scientist Steven Lewis (co-PI). An international group of project advisors, consisting of both natural and social scientists, contributes methodological sophistication and substantive expertise.