Assumptions that seem reasonable to undergraduates.

Gleaned from my "Ethics in Science" students:

  1. There exists an Official Scientist's Code of Ethics to which all scientists swear allegiance.
  2. There exists an Ethics Board that operates nationally (and maybe internationally) to impose penalties on scientists who violate the Official Scientist's Code of Ethics.
  3. In the 22 years since the publication of Cantor's Dilemma, the scientific community has likely evolved to become more civilized and more ethical.
  4. Anyone who has earned a Ph.D. in a scientific field (at least in the past 22 years) must also have had extensive training in ethics -- at least the equivalent of a semester-long course.

As to the origins of these assumptions, I don't know what to tell you. I'm curious about that myself.

3 responses so far

  • Chemjobber says:

    I think it's surprise at the relatively high amount of education compared to other fields that have to have *lots* of ethics training, e.g. medicine or law. (Of course, I'm assuming that physicians get formal ethics training.)

    You might also get them to be surprised that scientists don't really have official licensure exams, like nurses, dentists (I think) or florists in Louisiana.

  • Nick says:

    I think Chemjobber may have hit the nail on the head; medicine and law (and, if I understand correctly, engineering, architecture, urban planning, and many other fields) have centralized certifying bodies, testing procedures, and explicit codes of conduct, and many people are well aware of them. It seems like discussion of Hippocratic Oaths and threats of lost licenses are common tropes of medical drama, and everyone knows about being disbarred; it just makes sense that the same must be true for scientists, right?

  • [...] from his 1974 Caltech commencement address, adds another aspect: integrity. Janet Stemwedel recently wrote how her undergraduate students believed there was extensive formal training in scientific ethics or [...]