Ethics in Science and Research
Science is shaped by curiosity, conscience, and creativity—factors that are important in science and ethics because they contribute to new ideas, promote knowledge, and provide guidance. Creativity in science refers to finding truths and communicating facts, while general creativity is more involved with expression of thoughts and emotions. Ingenuity in science is comparable to puzzle solving; priorities are established, intricacies of main ideas are learned, values that conflict are merged with minor compromises, and new methods are developed as a result. The field of science has many challenges including the risk of failure, the lengthy process to reach a goal, hard work, doubt, funding, and the complexity and pressure of breaking new ground. Scientists are competitive, determined, and motivated by nature. Courage is necessary when creating new ideas, but does courage apply when the outcome is negative? For example, criminals are arguably courageous (in that what they do requires breaking societal norms and contains the implicit chance of being caught); however, is courage the appropriate portrayal since the outcome of their actions is adverse? Science can provide facts that assist people in supporting or opposing moral arguments, such as whether criminals should be considered courageous.
Though research entities strive for ethical practices, it is public opinion that research cannot be trusted. Due to this opinion, there is a blatant concern for the relationships among ethics, values, policy, and science. Scientists have a social responsibility to state the truth, utilize the proper methods for conducting research in an ethical manner, and should clearly state the methods used. There are scientists who want to make a difference for others and may even risk their own lives to advance technology or knowledge. Conversely, there are some scientists who turn away from work that conflicts with their own beliefs. Although compassion is a potential motive for science, it is not the primary motivation; many times the motivation is actually curiosity or some other self-serving reason. Good character, talent, luck, and immoral motives encourage the progress of science. The intellectual virtues of science include wisdom, truth, courage, humility, integrity, and self-respect. These factors contribute to accepted practices in science that are based on codes, standards, and laws determined as needed. For example, policies on data sharing exist because there is now a need for such standards. Scientists and trainees are responsible for refining existing standards, examining the subject, and developing new standards. Unfortunately, moral right and wrong does not always follow guidelines. At times it is difficult for a scientist to step back and assess issues objectively. In rare cases, scientists may sacrifice honesty and openness for social or political goals. Ethics are easier for scientists to identify with than morals because the latter often stem from instinct, feeling, environment, and faith, whereas the former are based on rational analysis and professional duty. Science and religion are different cultures; in relation to morals and ethical practice, the distinctions can be significant. Scientists must have awareness of potential ethical dilemmas and how to avoid them in order to remain loyal to the values of science and their own beliefs.
Professional ethics in science include good character, creativity, and responsibility in following a code of professional conduct. Though important, the standards of ethical conduct in science are more informal and ambiguous than in most other professions. The nature of science involves experimentation, communication, interpretation, and dissemination of ideas. Typically, there is no standardized procedure in scientific investigation, which makes it difficult to create standards of conduct that encompass all potential issues. The main components of the moral ideal of science are the search for understanding scientific truths and open communication. The work of science is built on objectivity, honesty, tolerance, selflessness, and rationality of others. This foundation is then the basis for creation of more specific moral rules in science. Moral rules enable ethical decision making when problems arise. It is important to realize that scientific issues are composed of technical and ethical factors, although most scientists focus only on the technical side. Some decisions required of scientists include discarding data points, communicating work through scientific articles, and conducting proper laboratory practices to ensure safety. To fully explore options, it is best to discuss the ethics of science in relation to actual situations and problems. Should society prohibit research for moral, political, or social reasons? Stem cell research is an example of research that is debated based on such reasons. What do you think? Social factors should be considered when studying the ethics of science and research.