MISCONDUCT IN SCIENCE:

DO SCIENTISTS NEED A PROFESSIONAL CODE OF ETHICS?

by: Vincent N. Hamner

Final paper submitted to: Dr. H.H. Bauer. STS 5424 -- May 1992.


INTRODUCTION

Discussions of misconduct in science have become prevalent in the literature. Fundamental texts regarding this subject have been published in recent years.(1,2) Many of these case studies are primarily of historical interest. Within the past few decades however, many more instances have come under scrutiny. The ease by which information is exchanged today has allowed for the general public to become increasingly aware of supposedly "isolated instances" of misconduct in science.

A literature search using the key words "SCIENCE & FRAUD" on an INFOTRAC CD-ROM-based data system yielded over two-hundred and thirty citations regarding these topics during the years from 1988 to 1991. Typical citations in the popular literature were available for news-magazines and newspapers such as Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and U.S. News & World Report. Commonly cited science related publications included Science, Nature, New Scientist, Science News, Omni, Discover, and The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Business related publications such as Forbes, Fortune Magazine, The Economist, and Business Week were cited as well. It would seem that discussions of "SCIENCE & FRAUD" in contemporary periodicals have become quite fashionable.

The goal of this paper is to examine the following question: "Do scientists need a professional code of ethics?". First, it will be necessary to define the types of scientific misconduct and provide modern examples of these instances. We will examine a set of "golden rules of science": the scientific method. What are the generally accepted norms of science? Many professional scientific societies have already adopted professional codes of ethics within the past few decades. A number of others are in the process of refining and updating their codes. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has surveyed 241 professional societies in order to determine how many of their member societies have adopted ethical codes. A discussion of their findings and suggestions will be in order.

I. The Types of Scientific Misconduct

II. What are the Rules of the Game?

III. Which is worse for Science: Negligence or Deliberate Misconduct?

IV. Do Scientists Need a Professional Code of Ethics?

Literature Cited