A University-wide Initiative
Announcement of Support for Collaborative Work on Complex Moral Problems
I am pleased to announce a renewed call for proposals for work on complex moral problems. The University has been continuing to emphasize and link our considerable strengths in practical or applied ethics across the three campuses. At President DeGioia’s request, a faculty group has been working to develop a more coordinated approach to engaged or applied ethics across the University. Their ideas include intensifying our efforts to address complex moral problems. To that end, $60,000 has again been made available for grants of up to $20,000 to members of the Georgetown faculty to support collaborative effort on complex moral problems.
To qualify for the awards, projects should meet the following substantive criteria:
1.They must concern a moral problem. Typically, but not always, a moral problem will saliently involve one or more moral principle, arising in a context in which it is difficult to conceptualize the right thing to do—whether because several principles clash or because their proper interpretation is debatable.
a.Not all problems about what we should do are moral problems, in the sense intended here. For instance, problems about what we should do to promote our national interest are not, in themselves, moral problems—although many actions we take in pursuit of our national interest do raise moral problems (about secrecy, torture, respect for the sovereignty of other states, etc.). Further, problems that arise in the application of the codes of ethics of the various professions are not in themselves moral problems. Requirements of such a code are not necessarily requirements of morality.
b.Moral problems can arise because a moral principle is difficult to fulfill in current conditions, because two or more moral principles (as prevailingly understood) clash with each other in some concrete situation, or because the concrete implications of some moral principles are difficult to understand.
2.These moral problems must be complex in a way that calls for, or would benefit from, interdisciplinary or collaborative treatment. In most cases, the problem should benefit from cooperation between participants (such as philosophers and theologians) who concern themselves directly with the interpretation and justification of moral principles and participants (such as social scientists, natural scientists, lawyers, policy experts, business experts, historians, anthropologists, and those who tap into embodied, performative ways of knowing) who study how the world works or seek to understand the situations in which these moral problems arise.
3.The project must aim to engage in a useful way with real-world, morally significant problems actually faced by people. The work product through which the project aims to do so might vary considerably; for instance, it might be a scholarly article that sets out an improved understanding of the problem or a white paper for policy makers.
These three requirements leave open a great variety of possible projects—one that would be impossible fully to describe here, but which is explored in the Addendum, available on this website.
These grants are available to support:
- ongoing research,
- new research, or
- pilot work in preparation for applying for a major external grant.
They are not intended to fund either conferences or faculty release from teaching. They are intended to support any other aspect of a collaborative research enterprise, however, such as travel to the research site, travel to enable working meetings with external collaborators, research assistance, and data-collection costs.
While interdisciplinarity is not a requirement, we will favor interdisciplinary projects, especially those that help bring together units of the University. In the current round, we will consider projects to be conducted from June 2013 through May 2014 and will give preference to projects that may be expected to show substantial progress within calendar year 2013. In evaluating the proposals, the committee will ask the following questions:
- Does the project address a practically significant moral problem in a potentially useful way?
- Does the project propose a mode of collaborative effort well suited to making relevant progress on the moral problem in question?
- Will the project (or a significant activity or event associated with the project) be undertaken if we do not fund it?
The Application Process
The proposal should be no longer than five pages of double-spaced text. It should include:
- A clear statement of the moral problem and an explanation of its practical significance.
- A clear explanation of the approach to this moral problem—indicating, as appropriate, what is novel or original about this approach and how interdisciplinary collaboration will inform the work, if working across disciplines is part of the design.
- Details about the specific activities the funds will support, along with a schedule for completion.
- A list of research participants with, ideally, evidence of their agreement to participate.
- A budget outlining expenditures.
- A completed cover sheet (see the form available on this website). The cover sheet is not included in the five-page count.
To be considered, materials should include a completed cover sheet and be e-mailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 5:00 PM on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. The cover sheet and other materials can be found on this website.
To facilitate the submission process, clearly indicate that this is a Complex Moral Problems Grant proposal in the subject heading of the e-mail. We will announce the recipients by late May and projects will commence in June, 2013.
The committee and I wish you the best of luck in this process and look forward to learning more about your research. Please feel free to forward this letter to other Georgetown colleagues who might wish to take part.
With best regards,
Henry S. Richardson, 2013 grant process facilitator and Professor, Department of Philosophy
For the Complex Moral Problems Grants Committee:
Laura Anderko, School of Nursing and Health Studies
Michael Kessler, Department of Government and Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs
Ed Soule, McDonough School of Business
Henry S. Richardson, Department of Philosophy
Robin West, GU Law Center