Engaged Ethics

Announcement of Support for Collaborative Work on Complex Moral Problems

Dear Colleagues:

In order to emphasize and link Georgetown’s considerable strengths in practical or applied ethics across the three campuses, the University has undertaken each year since 2011 to offer grants of up to $20,000 to members of the Georgetown faculty to support collaborative research on complex moral problems. This call for proposals announces the 2017 competition.  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.
  • 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. 
  • 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 principle are difficult to understand.  
  1. 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.  
  2. 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.  Please see our list of previously funded projects for examples and the Addendum for further explanation. 

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 July 2017 through May 2018. 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 attached to this email). 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 henry.richardson@georgetown.edu no later than 5:00 PM on Friday, April 28, 2017

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 2017.

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
Professor, Philosophy Department and 2016 Grant Process Facilitator

On behalf of the 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, Georgetown University Law Center 

Application Documents

Call for Proposals (new window)

Form for Cover Sheet (new window)

Grant Recipients

CMP Projects Funded 2016

CMP Projects Funded 2015

CMP Projects Funded 2014

CMP Projects Funded 2013

CMP Projects Funded 2012

CMP Projects Funded 2011