universal ethical code for scientists

Via Dr Free-Rider’s blog, and her recent post on Sir David King’s « universal ethical code for scientists »

I like the idea, I would like to see it implanted internationally, as it is intended for next year and I would like to quote Dr Evan Harris‘ saying :

The seven points in this code are part of what separates researchers from charlatans, medicine from quackery and science from supposition

Let’s see the seven points of the code :

  1. Act with skill and care, keep skills up to date
  2. Prevent corrupt practice and declare conflicts of interest
  3. Respect and acknowledge the work of other scientists
  4. Ensure that research is justified and lawful
  5. Minimise impacts on people, animals and the environment
  6. Discuss issues science raises for society
  7. Do not mislead; present evidence honestly

My favorite one is #7 and is associated with « … what separates … science from supposition … » Maybe there are some scientists seeking glory based upon mere suppositions without hard evidence to support it. I hate that attitude, particularly when the public is directly addressed by books disguised as vulgarization and scientists are whining because there ideas aren’t well accepted by their peers.
Somehow these charlatans should be stigmatized publicly, so they will be unable to claim benefits from #3; say Stuart Pivar should not be able to be considered as anything else than a charlatan, and the same should apply for scientists practicing scientific denial: HIV denial, genetics denial, evodevo denial, etc. If the code is adopted there must be some kind of authority spotting unethical behaviors.

I do practice #6, as much as possible and I’m often unpopular because I try to stick to what is scientifically proven. Public don’t like this attitude much; some are even reproachful: « now come on, you can’t consider that the offense to Mother Nature can lead at anything else the diabolic stuff, GMO’s are bad, can’t you just feel it? ».
In general, I would like to make it mandatory to spend a week per year discussing issues science raise for society for every single scientist. And maybe mandatory to read and rate papers on PLoS ONE. Now, come on, I’m not joking. And yes, I do started doing so myself, with a minimal objective of 3/week.
And maybe the scientists should be trained to blog, also.

But I would like to maximize impact on people, animals and the environment 🙂 I mean positive impact! Maybe #5 should be rephrased somehow to specify that deleterious impacts should be avoided. Or else the « precaution principle » could be a burden much more hard to manage than actually.

Keeping research lawful, #4, is maybe a pleonasm, as law can kick your out of practice if necessary. And I wouldn’t like anybody to tell what research could be justified! I always considered improving knowledge as justified; as far as you get funding it’s OK with me. Even if you have a Templeton Foundation grant (for research). Well, Discovery Institute’s activities aren’t considered as science, are they? So, I think they could have keep it at one less, #4 seems superfluous, or just there as a reminder. Did I hear that this is just for fr*ming?

#2 is a nice one, but once again somebody should be able to judge what a corrupted practice or an undeclared conflict of interests is, and take action if the rule is broken.

For #1 an addition may be useful: Act with skill and care, keep skills up to date, acquire new skills as much as possible. I mean, just updating isn’t enough in several domains, and as interdisciplinary approaches are more and more widely adopted one should make an effort to understand inputs from fellow disciplines.

Well, I’m not a UK scientist, but I’ll blog these notes, expecting for an international adoption of the code.

  1. Ethics Code for Scientists? [A Blog Around The Clock] · Articles

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