Science and Engineering Values

Biodiversity and Sustainability · Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion · Open Science

Science and engineering are, at their heart, value-laden enterprises. When I decided to leave my position as an elementary school teacher, I had two major criteria for the next phase of my professional development: (i) it had to engage my love of science and mathematics, and (ii) there had to be a significant social impact. Tackling problems related to clean energy and clean water as a mechanical engineer addressed both.

As scientists and engineers, our work touches lives and impacts our environment on a very broad scope. Our work has implications for environmental sustainability, social justice, and public policy, among other spheres, and can be used to improve the lives of those around us. At the same time, poorly considered or perfunctory work which fails to fully consider its own impact can have significant negative consequences for those around us.

Below are some of the values and themes that inspire my work. They influence both why and how I do what I do. As you will see, they are all highly interrelated.

They are also all largely aspirational — they indicate ways in which I would like to grow, as a researcher and teacher, not milestones that I have already achieved. If you have suggestions, corrections, or would like to collaborate with me in any of these endeavors, please do not hesitate to reach out!

Click here to read about all three areas.


Conservation Biology and Environmental Sustainability

A major driver for leaving elementary education for academia was a passion for preserving biodiversity on Earth, both for moral/ethical reasons and also because of the vital role that this biodiversity plays in supporting and enriching human life on Earth. However, even though these concerns are shared by many in clean energy research, they are typically not given much direct attention in our research, which instead typically focuses on improving device efficiency, durability, or cost. More thought is required on how device design impacts behavior in diverse populations, and in turn how this new behavior impacts local ecosystem health.

Click Here to read more.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

While it is tempting to think of science and engineering as purely objective pursuits, the truth is that they are human endeavors. The work is conceptualized and carried out by people, and a scientist's or engineer's background can influence the questions asked (and those not asked), what methods are used to collect data, how that data is interpreted and applied, and how the work is executed. For many reasons, then, it is essential that diversity, equity, and inclusion be a cornerstone of our science and engineering practice. Among many other factors, this includes who practices science, how science is communicated to the public, and which stakeholders are given a voice in deciding how scientific findings are applied.

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Open Science

Science plays many roles in our society, but perhaps the most important role is to unravel the mysteries of the world around us. To understand the physical, chemical, biological, and social forces which influence a whole range of phenomena around us, and to share our findings with others. Unfortunately, many practices onloadedmetadata="" in the current research climate are uantithetical to this goal. To varying degress, researchers keep their work under wraps, perhaps for fear of getting 'scooped,' or fear of harming their chances to publish in a 'high impact' journal. When it is time to publish, researchers commonly sign away their copyright to for-profit companies who then put their results behind a paywall.

While some of these aspects are understandable and perhaps reasonable (I will admit that I am guilty of all of them, on occasion), it is worth asking: is there a better way to conduct and share our research? Do these practices get in the way of our ultimate goal, which is to share our findings and processes with the world to increase knowledge about the way our world works? If so, are these practices avoidable? In short, can we simultaneously increase our impact (and thus build a sustainable research career) while also being more open?

Open Science is a movement whose aim is to increase the openness of the entire scientific process, from the planning of a research project, through the execution, and up through the publication of scientific findings. When done well, these principles have been shown to increase impact, increase access to your findings to reduce inequality, while also improving the quality of the underlying science.

There are a great many resources available, and those with much more expertise than I have written extensively about Open Science. The Open Science Wikepedia page gives a rather thorough overview, presenting different approaches and arguments for and against Open Science. There are also an number of scientists on Twitter who passionately advocate and educate on behalf of Open Science. For example, Jeffrey Spies (@JeffSpies) is a co-founder of the Center for Open Science. Jon Tennant (@Protohedgehog) advocates passionately (and vociferously!) on behalf of Open Access publishing. This is just a sample - there are many, many others, and google is your friend. :)

Some other ideas and resources, for various stages of research process:
  • The Center for Open Science is an excellent resource for pretty much anything Open Science related.
    • You can pre-register your research plan beforehand, which not only gives an opportunity to think through your research plan more clearly and also solicit feedback from others in the field.
    • Their Open Science Framework is a free, open-source project management tool that helps you collaborate, but also lets you make parts (or all) of your project (data, protocols, materials, preprints) publicly available.
  • Speaking of pre-prints, they are a great way to publish preliminary findings. They build awareness for your work, enhancing the impact of the eventual peer-reviewed publication, and are also a great way to solicit feedback for work in progress. They are also an easy (and legal) way to share a version of paywalled articles. A great many pre-print servers currently exist. See if one relevant to your field exists, or Please note, though, that some articles do consider data published as a pre-print to be "previously published," so if you have a particular journal or set of journals in mind, check their pre-print policy.

    All available preprints of my work are uploaded at the DeCaluwe Research Page.

  • Publish Open Access. There are a number of open access journals available, and many 'traditional journals' have an open access option, which typically involves an article publishing fee. For exhorbitant fees, consider publishing a pre- or post-print of the article instead, with a link to the doi of the official version. Jon Tennant gives a nice visual overview of Open Access options here.

  • Make your software publicly available by posting on public repositories, such as GitHub. Even better, use open-source software options, when possible.

    You can view my publicly-available codes at by visiting the DeCaluwe GitHub repository. Making more of my codes publicly available is a near-term goal.

  • Finally, share your conference slides! FigShare is a great way to publish and share slides, posters, and other non-paper outputs of your research. It offers a doi for all shared items, so you can receive proper credit (i.e. citations) for your work! A recent approach I've taken is to upload my presentaiton before giving it, and then posting a link to the FigShare upload on the slides that I present.

    Visit the DeCaluwe FigShare profile.

As with diversity, equity, and inclusion, please feel free to provide feedback and suggestions for how I can improve this list!