Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems



This first lesson is an overview of the Ethical Dimensions of Systems Research (EDSR), providing general terminology and approach to understanding the following case studies. The EDSR program describes how to recognize and evaluate ethical issues in research procedure and conduct, in the consideration of broader public and environmental impacts, and as values become embedded in research and analysis itself. Because common topics, types, and methods for ethical recognition and analysis are applied across all of the case modules, students should develop a set of tools for critical reflection on various issues of ethical importance. As developed in the EDSR approach, three main categorical distinctions for research ethics used here are broader social and political impacts (extrinsic ethics), research practice and conduct (procedural ethics), and embedded values (intrinsic ethics). By showing where and how to look for these types of ethical issues, the EDSR approach helps practitioners to anticipate where ethical issues may arise in a given research and/or application context.

Lesson Objectives

  • Reflect on the scope of ethical principles as they apply to this course.
  • Distinguish between ethical categories and ethics versus values.
  • Define ethical terms, particularly as they apply to an ethical analysis of systems.

What is due for Lesson 1?

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Course Syllabus for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignment below can be found within this lesson.

Lesson 1: Assignments
Requirements Assignment Details
To Do Familiarize yourself with all the Lesson 1 Readings and assignments.
Read Week 1:
  • Course website Lesson 1 materials (Parts 1-4).
  • Embedded Ethics chapter (see draft pdf in Canvas folder.)
Assignment Week 1:
  • Complete Ethics Matrix 1 and post comments and/or any questions you may have in the discussion forum. To post, go to the course in Canvas, click on Lesson 1, Submit Ethics Matrix.

A note on using "Ethics Tools"

This educational module provides users with concepts and examples for the development of tools for learning ethical analysis. "Ethics tools" are used to identify and design towards optimal solutions that satisfy a wide variety of ethical dimensions.

Whether you are a student or instructor, you will be able to interact with this module and learn more about other resources available on the specific topics under consideration. Users of this module, and any module within the Ethical Dimensions of Coupled Energy and Environment Systems Research series, are enhancing and refining their moral literacy by expanding their knowledge of ethical concepts and in considering examples and cases where ethical reasoning is required.

Expanding your knowledge of ethical concepts and studying of examples will help to enhance your ethical literacy.

We present here an approach that attempts to help you find firm footing in engaging and responding to questions concerning ethical and moral behavior encountered in the production and application of systems research. However, we understand that any approach will fall short on being a universally applicable approach to all contexts in research ethics. Further, while we focus on concepts particular to the production of knowledge (i.e., scientific research), many of these issues are also critical to industry, the public, and

One issue always worthy of consideration concerns addressing, “who bears the burden of intended and unintended consequences of our research?” Another issue that requires particular care in attention is in assessing the broader social impacts of research, particularly during the formation of the research itself.


If you have any questions, please post them to the General Questions discussion forum (not email), located under the Communicate tab or the Lesson tab in Canvas. Your instructor will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you are able to help out another student.