Hippocratic Oath for Scientists?

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I promise never to allow financial gain, competitiveness or ambition cloud my judgment in the conduct of ethical research and scholarship. I will pursue knowledge and create knowledge for the greater good, but never to the detriment of colleagues, supervisors, research subjects or the international community of scholars of which I am now a member.

Scientific misconduct is very expensive, leading to years of wasted research dollars and effort in pursuit of a scientific mirage, and it damages the public’s perception of the value of science to society. Not only that, but the personal and professional costs to those closest to it are tremendous; whistle-blowers often lose everything and, if their scientific career somehow survives, it will always bear the scars, as revealed by Allegra Goodman in her excellent book, Intuition. In response to what appears to be a growing problem, a group of people at the Institute of Medical Science at University of Toronto in Canada wrote a scientist’s version of the Hippocratic oath. This oath (above) was recited by all graduate students in the biological sciences at the beginning of the 2007-2008 academic year.
But what is scientific misconduct? The US federal definition of research misconduct defines it as “fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.” As an undergraduate in microbiology, a research technician in cancer research, and a graduate student in zoology, I frequently participated in long and detailed discussions of scientific ethics, both with my fellow graduate students as well as with more senior scientists. As a result, I developed a strong sense of right and wrong in the practice of scientific research.
Perhaps it was just my educational experiences, but I don’t think that there was much scientific misconduct occurring in academics when I was a student. I have not spent much time in medical research, but again, during the two years that I did work in a medical research lab, I was surrounded by people who had a very strong sense of professional ethics. Was I blind or just lucky? Has scientific misconduct become so rampant these days that we now must take oaths to protect the integrity of science from the pretenders among us? Will merely repeating a verbal oath protect science from those who would otherwise cheat for gain? Don’t you think that, if a person is already unethical, reciting a “Hippocratic oath for scientists” would probably not alter his behavior? In view of the corruption so zealously demonstrated by American politicians (who also take an oath before serving in public office), it seems to me that an oath does little to dissuade people from misbehaving.
In short, I think that if there truly is corruption in “science”, it is because of the corporatization of science and of science education. In the corporate business model that we are all familiar with, no one individual accepts repsonsibility for anything, including the behavior of the business itself. Just as there is no personal accountability in Big Pharma for inadequate and shoddy clinical trials, there also is no personal responsibility in universities for accepting too many aspiring researchers into life science PhD programs.
This lack of personal responsibility is due to unrestrained greed combined with a tremendous disparity in power and income: CEOs, CFOs and stockholders in businesses can be compared to university presidents, departmental deans and individual professors in academics. All have contributed heavily to the overall degradation of scientific ethics. Corporatization of both universities and businesses creates an atmosphere where individuals are no longer responsible their behavior and how their choices affects the lives of others, because dishonesty and greed are financially rewarded instead of scholarship and ethical behavior, and because a small number of individuals can and do earn 200 times more income than anyone else within the business or university.
NOTE: rewritten 24 June to clarify the points that seem to be causing confusion.
Titus, S.L., Wells, J.A., Rhoades, L.J. (2008). Repairing research integrity. Nature, 453(7198), 980-982. DOI: 10.1038/453980a.
(2008). Solutions, not scapegoats. Nature, 453(7198), 957-957. DOI: 10.1038/453957a.


About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
This entry was posted in Brain & Behavior, Cultural Observation, Ethics, Journal Club and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Hippocratic Oath for Scientists?

  1. skeptic says:

    Science as such is in steep decline–it has been replaced by the search for patents with which to control the use of knowledge and extract rents.

  2. Jason Dick says:

    Well, I certainly agree that it isn’t going to help the most egregious violators. But it could help to prevent those who would embark on scientific fraud without realizing it.
    Consider, for instance, a person who started out by touching up some pictures to make the scientific results more clear. Not anything egregious, just the removal of some extraneous details that confuse the image. At first said person is careful to properly document said removals, but eventually it becomes common practice, and is just done with the understanding that others will know it has been done. How far from that to real fraud?
    In this situation, the scientist in question would effectively prevent themselves from seeing past their own biases on what such images should be presenting, and distort the truth in doing so. I suspect that this sort of well-intentioned fraud is the sort that could be sometimes prevented by some sort of scientific Hippocratic Oath.

  3. SteveBaker says:

    I think we should look for loftier ideals than “I promise not to cheat”.
    How about keeping an open mind? What about insisting that the world should be told about what you’ve discovered even if it’s “politically incorrect”? How about standing up and defending what you know to be true when you are in the minority?
    Science isn’t in trouble because of the few who fake results – it’s in trouble because of the nut jobs, the religious fanatics, the people who continue to claim they’ve invented a car that can run on water despite all evidence to the contrary…and a general public who would actually prefer to listen to this stuff than “Oh by the way, we’ve discovered that burning fossil fuels is the way the world will end so could you please switch to using CFL’s instead of incandescent bulbs?”
    We need to be out there vigorously defending the global warming theory, keeping evolution taught in schools, getting our presidential candidates to debate the science issues of our time.
    Heck, perhaps we could even try to get someone to lock away the fraudsters who claim to be able to increase your car’s mpg by 60% by hooking up a jar of water to the car battery and feeding the resulting “HHO gas” into the air intake…or the guys who claim that this bottle of herb extracts will increase the size of “certain parts of the male anatomy”.
    We are SCIENTISTS dammit! Let’s roll up our sleeves and do some science.

  4. jim bob says:

    The change in science is a reflection of the “globalization” of the world economy. Government out-sourcing allows private companies to hire CEOs and that CEO hires someone else who ultimately hires you to make 200x less.
    But, private organizations have always been involved in government scientific work. This is true throughout the history of aeronautics and aerospace, military research, even the predecessor to the Internet was built with help from out-sourced companies (Mitre, BBN) back in the 70s. The problem is that globalization is accelerating the drive for VOLUME profit which leaves less money on the table for scientific work.
    Google is trying to be the next Bell Labs, but I don’t think we’ll see a transistor-like breakthrough from Google. They’re awfully good at what they do, but it’s hard to imagine Google transforming the world like Bell Labs did.
    If you think the closest work to “pure” science is Big Pharma research or military research, then you probably aren’t looking hard enough. You have too much experience in very well funded universities and not enough drive in the real world to get things done. If you don’t have a larger organization to fund you, you’ve to got manage your own projects and your own funding. Is your work important enough to the public to attract funding? Maybe the real problem is that you don’t pay attention to the economics involed in your own work to manage it properly.

  5. Bob O'H says:

    I’m not as pessimistic as Grrl, but I agree that the situation can be improved. Creating a culture with stronger ethics is important, as is having efficient ways of dealing with unethical behaviour – there’s one well known evolutionary biologist who has been accused of fraud, but very little has been done. Whether he’s guilty or not, it’s affected his career because nobody will want to hire him (he does have a permanent position). And of course, it also means we are unsure about how much we can trust his other papers.
    I think fraud is rare (outside of reporting clinical trials, at least!), but subtler fiddling of the data is much more common, with people trying to get a good result that they can publish. A strong ethical culture would improve matters here too – the amount of self-criticism is patchy.
    Anyway, we’re also discussing matters at Nature Network.

  6. someone says:

    Locking away fraudsters won’t help. There’s an unlimited supply as long as people are willing to listen to them and buy into it.

  7. trojan says:

    It would do more good to make the MBAs that run everything take an ethics oath!
    MBA types run corporations which in turn run corporate research and to a major extent academic research. Even the so called government funded research is driven by corporate backers that fund political careers and PACs.

  8. Science has become more of a career than a passion because it pays well, is relaxing and of higher social status. At my university, undergraduate students get better grades if their electrophoresis pictures look exactly like in the textbooks. So we were forced to photoshop it nicely or suffer badly in relative grading.
    I confess to one other count of scientific misconduct for better grades whose scope is a bit more subtle and requires more than the confines of this comment.
    And all this, while being a newbie in this field. I can only imagine what Graduate students would do when their hypothesis es don’t work out. They will surely fake results because they can’t afford to stay another year figuring out a better one.

  9. Biff says:

    Where to start?
    I’ve been in pharma, and I’ve been in Ivy League academia. If anything, I found that there was more skirting of ethics in academia than in the commercial world. Peer review is great, as far as it goes, but aside from groundbreaking or controversial papers, very few academic papers are truly closely scrutinized, even by peer reviewers, particularly if the papers are coming from established labs, so there is ample opportunity to fudge without being caught. Clinical work, on the other hand, goes through the same peer review, as well as regulatory review, not to mention the deterrent effect of billion dollar lawsuits in the commercial world and pharma watchdog groups that stand ready to pounce on the appearance of commercial malfeasance. On the other hand, I’ve certainly seen borderline behavior and exaggerations galore during grant writing time in prestigious academic labs. I vividly recall in the 80s how the work of many academic labs suddenly had “implications” and “potential” for HIV treatment as a function of the granting agency budgets. (Stem cells anyone?)
    Another aspect is that pharma scientists are reasonably well compensated (certainly when compared to academics), and employment in pharma/biotech generally bears far less resemblance to the guild system than the academic world, so pharma scientists tend to be less beholden to supervisors and institutions (and letters of recommendation) than academic scientists, and I really believe that they are less willing to look the other way than in academia.
    That’s not to say that misconduct doesn’t happen in industry, it’s just that it makes much bigger headlines if someone fudges a clinical trial than if someone tries to squeak something into an academic paper in an obscure journal (and to the general public, even Nature is an obscure journal).
    On another note, much of what you characterized as “hands in the cookie jar” behavior is the same reluctance to publish negative or inconclusive results that one sees all the time in academia.
    Anyway, those are a few things off the top of my head. Again, I don’t want to suggest that commercial science is pure as the driven snow, but after more than a decade each in academia and pharma, I simply don’t buy the notion that industry is evil and corrupt, while academia is an idyllic place where people just do science in a purely objective fashion. The academic and commercial worlds both place “systemic” pressures on the objectivity of scientists. That is true of all systems of human interaction. The real questions are: are the participants conscious of the pressures, and are there accessible mechanisms to counteract the pressures?
    For a thoughtful discussion of life in pharma R&D (with occasional comparisons to academia), I highly recommend Derek Lowe’s blog at http://pipeline.corante.com/

  10. hopeful says:

    IMO, every bit helps…. so let’s see where this goes….

  11. Jesse Welling says:

    Who is John Galt?

  12. Alistair Morley says:

    Observation 1: If Drugs did not require official approaval through the FDA, there wouldn’t be the same incentives to produce “proofs” of efficacy…. regulation can have unintended consequences.
    But look at the economics: the principal agent problem involved here is very difficult to surmount. And it’s by no means confined to the private sector. I work for a government research agency and frankly internal peer review is a joke. If it’s popular, or gives answers important people want to hear, the work is promoted. Otherwise, science be damned. Internal audits are reguarly subverted and any objective measures canned in favour of self-marking assesments. I wouldn’t trust any output produced by my department.
    I’d like to hear some speculation on what promotes healthy scientific culture. Organisations can’t just decide to be “scientific”; what structures work, and where can they be feasibly implemented?

  13. CC says:

    From what I read, the most typical perpetrators of scientific misconduct are big pharmaceutical companies. It is no secret that they are increasingly being caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar by changing or ignoring research data so they can sneak ineffective or dangerous medications through the FDA approval process.
    Like Biff, I’ve worked in both academic and pharmaceutical research and concur with him that you have that completely backwards. It’s the grad students and postdocs desperate to avoid your specter of Wal-Mart and food stamps who cut corners, not companies with heavily scrutinized regulatory submissions and huge liability risks from improprieties.
    You’re confused by ascertainment bias. A handful of alleged industry violations make it into high-profile, exaggerated news stories. You’ll never hear about all (or virtually any) of the papers in whatever journal that turn out not to be quite right and it’s not worth anyone’s time to figure out why.
    These financially struggling scientists, most of whom have reached their mid-40s having never earned more than 30K in their lives and who are grateful to simply be working in science at all, are suddenly are confronted daily with obscene amounts of wealth earned by “the big boyz” of Big Pharmas.
    I wish!!! (Except for the mid-40s part…) Pharma researchers don’t make significantly more money than their junior professor counterparts, and I can assure you that those junior faculty are at least as worried about hanging on to their not-yet-tenured positions as we are. And, incidentally, most of us are here because we chose to work here, not because we’re too stupid to be academic PIs and “are grateful to simply be working in science at all” after pathetically slogging through postdocs into our “mid-40s”.

  14. Not surprisingly, this incredibly naive, frankly idiotic analysis ignores the obvious–greed isn’t confined to a demographic or cured by education.
    Unethical behavior is always disturbing, but its not a comic book world with good guys and bad guys–the same people aghast at the alleged ethical lapses of pharmaceuticals are often guilty themselves of similar unethical behavior in their own lives.
    You can’t fix a problem by changing the people, and ALL systems are based on people. The idea that academics have the proper ethical training is risible–any experienced academic will confide that universities are rife with corruption of one sort or another.
    Truly ethical behavior is also not a matter of money–poverty does not make you unethical any more than wealth makes you honest. Truly moral people will do the right thing regardless of the personal impact.

  15. Sarah says:

    For Alistair Morley:
    I found doing my undergraduate work at a small liberal arts school without a research emphasis did an excellent job of promoting an ethical culture. We’ll see if the pressures of graduate school erode that basis or not.
    Being an undergraduate only school, we ran our own samples, did our own analysis, and usually had professors (or undergrad TAs with a very close relationship with the professor) grading our lab reports. Fudging the results was almost always caught, and was highly discouraged. If our results came out as mud, the bulk of our grade rested on the explanation of why they were mud. If our results came out beautifully, again, the bulk of the grade was determined by our explanation of why.

  16. Seerak says:

    In short, I think that the corruption in “science” is systemic. It is due to corporate science being run according to a business model instead of in accordance to an educational paradigm. It is due to unrestrained corporate greed combined with a tremendous disparity in power and income:
    (But *government* money is the solution to all problems. It never leads to any kind of corruption or political interference.)

  17. Frank Ch. Eigler says:

    The terms “… but never to the detriment of colleagues, supervisors, research subjects or the international community of scholars …” make it seem like it would be a violation of this oath to challenge/falsify/whistleblow one’s colleagues, supervisors, …, or the community of scholars. Surely that is not the intent, but what odd wording …

  18. okay, first of all, if you want to convince me that i am wrong, don’t accuse me of saying things that i never once said, such as

    And, incidentally, most of us are here because we chose to work here, not because we’re too stupid to be academic PIs
    (But *government* money is the solution to all problems. It never leads to any kind of corruption or political interference.)

    the basic premise of my argument is that the culture of BUSINESS is antithetical to that of SCIENCE because business is all about making huge amounts of money while having no personal responsibility for anything “bad” that happens while those sums of money were being made. this is the business model that i am railing against, and this is the business model that i see big Pharmas unintentionally (?) falling into — otherwise, there would not be ANY drug scandals such as what we see now.
    the scientific (academic) model is one where information/discoveries is the currency that is being sought. since nearly all academic institutions are now being run according to a corporate/business financial “bottom line” model, this is destroying the culture of scholarship, and i have no doubt that the ethics of the science that is practiced in academic institutions is becoming being eroded, unless the old guard remain constantly vigilant.
    as far as ethics go, i think that most people do not have an ethical code at all, but rather, they rely on “situational ethics” or on antiquated moral codes dictated by one religion or another without consciously thinking about WHAT THEIR VALUES REALLY ARE. don’t believe me? then how did nazi germany come about? how did the Milgram shock experiments — which used “ordinary male college students” — come about? [for those who don’t know; psychologist Milgram’s experiments from the early 1960s are eerily similar to Guantanimo Bay]
    certainly, my own practice of science (with the notable exception of my O Chem lab) did not base my grade on “pretty outcomes” or high yields but rather, on my comprehension of the process itself and on my ability to troubleshoot and to analyze the results and to propose testable hypotheses. but i was lucky enough to be “raised” in a scientific culture where we frequently examined other scientists’ behavior as well as our own and held lively discussions about those behaviors. so developing an ethical code of behavior was something that happened as a consequence of where i went to school, of the culture i participated in. since then, my alma mater, and most other research universities, are moving towards a purely business model instead of an academic model, i think this makes unethical behavior more likely. but unfortunately, taking a Hippocratic oath is not going to solve that problem because most people don’t think about all the small, seemingly insignificant aspects of what constitutes (un)ethical behavior and how ignoring small transgressions, such as stealing paperclips from your boss, contribute to a larger erosion of one’s ethics.
    how do i think we can address this? first, in their first year, all college students should be required to take a course on ethical behavior that requires them to develop their own ethical code that they can actually write down on a piece of paper. second, all college students should be able to demonstrate that they are involved with some sort of “ethics group” where they meet and discuss behaviors (of world leaders? of the rich and famous? their neighbors? .. themselves?) — in short, these students must have the opportunity to “practice ethics” on a regular basis just as an athlete lifts weights, etc. third, ethics should become a matter of public record, such as when a business, whether it is big Pharma or Enron, engages in unethical behavior, such as falsifying research data on drugs that are undergoing FDA approval (or stealing retirement accounts), the CEO and CFO should be fired, no questions asked (and they should forfeit ALL corporate perks .. no golden parachutes, no long-term health care, no condos in tahiti, etc).
    Derek Lowe and i know each other. i respect him and i think of us as friends (plus, i link to him from my blog), and that should be enough for anyone.

  19. CC says:

    okay, first of all, if you want to convince me that i am wrong, don’t accuse me of saying things that i never once said…
    Sorry, but I’m having trouble reading:

    These financially struggling scientists, most of whom have reached their mid-40s having never earned more than 30K in their lives and who are grateful to simply be working in science at all, are suddenly are confronted daily with obscene amounts of wealth earned by “the big boyz” of Big Pharmas….Especially when it is obvious that they can easily and quickly be replaced by three or four other scientists who desperately wish to be employed, preferably in science?

    as anything other than that pharma researchers are, by and large, pathetic failures who couldn’t manage careers in academia? I don’t see how I’m substantively misunderstanding your point, but if I am, and if you do understand that that we were successful postdocs who developed specialized skills and chose this line of work over academic research, then I have no idea what your original point was.
    third, ethics should become a matter of public record, such as when a business, whether it is big Pharma or Enron, engages in unethical behavior, such as falsifying research data on drugs that are undergoing FDA approval (or stealing retirement accounts), the CEO and CFO should be fired, no questions asked (and they should forfeit ALL perks .. no golden parachutes, no long-term health care, no condos in tahiti, etc).
    Ooookayyy. So in your ideal world, when a grad student trims some data points or a professor fails to publish some negative results, do the university president, the treasurer and the department head get fired, no questions asked, and get permanently denied health care?

  20. bioephemera says:

    “i think that most people do not have an ethical code at all, but rather, they rely on “situational ethics” or on antiquated moral codes dictated by one religion or another without consciously thinking about WHAT THEIR VALUES REALLY ARE. ”
    Amen, sister! I love your suggestion for integrating ethics into education. . . an oath is pretty darn useless if people taking it haven’t thought critically about the nature of the “greater good” or the ethical principles they’re swearing to uphold. All the ethics classes I had as graduate requirements were, to put it bluntly, jokes.

  21. pharma researchers are, by and large, pathetic failures who couldn’t manage careers in academia

    seriously?? are you stupid or just too blind to be real? honestly if you really wished to know what i was saying or meant, you would have ASKED ME TO CLARIFY. instead, you INSIST on twisting my words to fit your own ridiculous and baseless agenda that you then insist on forcing down my throat, by claiming that i said something that i have never even thought to be true, not even in the darkest hours of the night. that’s astonishingly, amazingly arrogant. and stupid.
    obviously, responding to you further, except to remind you of what i have NOT said, is a complete waste of time because you are clearly incapable of engaging in a reasoned argument.

  22. A passer-by says:

    I just want to chime in and say, in the most humble way, that I understood the passage referred to by CC the same way as him. I don’t think he’s been dishonest, I don’t think he’s been twisting your words. You may want to rewrite or rephrase what you wanted to say, certainly not for him or me in particular, but for the whole bunch of people who are not taking the time to post a comment, nevertheless inferring the same meaning as us.
    Good continuation on your writing though!

  23. Peter Aleff says:

    To return to the oath which started this discussion about ethics in science before it veered off into fingerpointing between the relative virtues or vices of scientists in academia and industry: Even if that oath was worded more precisely, it would be just as much window-dressing as the much touted Nuremberg Code and the successive Helsinki Declarations of medical ethics which many medical researchers of all stripes continue to disregard blatantly and routinely, as demonstrated once again by yet one more recent survey about “evidence of scholarly misconduct among scientists” (AFP, 6/18/08).
    Moreover, like the original Hippocratic Oath which mandated that you help and defend your teacher, this supposedly updated version still encourages wagon-circling around the “community of scholars of which I am now a member”. This type of “scientific ethics” has nothing to do with actual ethics but is simply a synonym for stonewalling inconvenient facts to protect one’s “community of scholars”.
    Indeed, some medical anthropologists deconstructed several codes of medical ethics from various countries and periods and concluded these were in all cases “… efforts to support professional control by assuring the public that practitioners will use medical resources in morally responsible ways.”[Lieban RW. “Medical Anthropology and the Comparative Study of Medical Ethics”, citing Unschuld 1979 and Freidson 1970, pages 221 to 239. In: Weisz G, ed. “Social Science Perspectives on Medical Ethics”, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990:235.]
    The aim of such Potemkin codes or public oaths is thus not to promote responsible behavior but only its appearance.
    This hollowness of scientific ethics codes appeared again clearly when the South Korean stem cell faking scandal made the headlines, as yet another example of fraudulent research. Even though this fraud was outed by exceptionally courageous whistleblowers and not by any of its rubberstamping editors or reviewers, academic defenders of the duped bioresearch journal spun that discovery as proof for the alleged self-correcting mechanisms in their science. These spinners wrote self-righteously that such frauds are rare and pose no real danger because even when they do happen to occur, their new data don’t become scientific dogma until they are replicated and thoroughly verified. All is thus for the best in this best of all possible worlds, and truthiness reigns.
    As long as scientists do not consider it their duty to expose frauds committed in the name of their craft, their most unctuous oaths will not help any of them to appear more honest than the worst bad apples they tolerate in their midst. Moreover, some researchers’ misguided idea of the “greater good” can easily distort the knowledge base, the holy grail and raison d’etre for all of allegedly “evidence-based” science.
    For instance, fifty years ago, many medical doctors in America were still steeped in the by then already widely discredited pseudoscience of eugenics. When faced with an epidemic of blinding among premature babies that began with the introduction of eye-damaging fluorescent lamps, they blamed “bad germ plasm” for the problem and decided to eliminate it by “not preserving” the “defective persons” who carried it.
    The most potent means of preserving preemies had long been to give them supplemental oxygen, so these “scientists” rigged a big show trial in which they withheld this breathing help from all preemies for their first two days to reliably kill off the most vulnerable among them who were at the greatest risk for the blindness.
    Then these doctors trying to work for the “greater good” of eliminating the bad germ plasm enrolled only the survivors in their study and proclaimed with great authority and fanfare the predictable result that the incidence of blindness had been drastically reduced among their study population. They glossed over the mass killing they had caused to intentionally bias their sample and presented oxygen withholding as an effective and harmless prevention. Despite the need for constant verification in science, their never replicated and experience-contradicting bogus study became instantly the cornerstone of modern intensive care nursery procedures. It continues today to harm many babies for those doctors’ idea of the “greater good” even though their “bad germ plasm” theory and all their eugenics have long been debunked. Yet, naive or dishonest promoters of science routinely claim an alleged “self-correcting” mechanism works in their field. See the documentation of this case plus further related frauds and their cover-ups at retinopathyofprematurity.org/01summary.htm.
    As long as such blatant frauds continue to be ignored, denied, and covered up by the evidence-adverse scientific community, none of its members has any right to parade his or her “scientific ethics” with showy oaths or other lip service to an alleged ideal their community keeps trampling.
    Respectfully submitted,
    Peter Aleff

  24. pluto says:

    “…create knowledge for the greater good.”
    So, scientists that go on to work in industry to do R&D and create proprietary knowledge for the bottom line of stock holders are breaking this oath???
    That oath is so effed up. A scientist should be ethical. period. What koolaid are they drinking up there in Canada?
    New Oath: “I promise to be an ethical scientist in the pursuit of my own happiness.”

  25. All of the problems I have seen are basic and could have been covered by simple guidelines. The Ten Commandments would go a long way by itself if professionals would take a few minutes and think about where their values start affecting other people. “Thou shalt not kill”, is a good start. From there, go the other way and honor life. People that respect God don’t usually have these ethical problems. After you compromise your basic religious stance, the corruption in business, medicine, and science is a small step away.

  26. Elfed Dowler-Jones says:

    I find the initial glance at this quite distressing?
    My understanding of the very fist paragraph reads: I will always lie about my funding and guarantee that every funded member of the scientific community is beyond reproach: Naturally, if you are an independent researcher or individual, your oppinion is non-admissable.
    A sorry state of evolution indeed. 😦

  27. John Woods says:

    Perhaps it was just my educational experiences, but I don’t think that there is much scientific misconduct occurring in academics.
    So first of all, I’m sorry that so many people have been so very rude. This is the danger of submitting things to Slashdot, I’m afraid.
    I do feel that I need to point out that the statement above is incorrect. Academic research misconduct is not often reported because it’s very hard to prove, and the career of the person who reports it–typically a graduate student–is often completely destroyed, even if he or she is right.
    You mention Intuition. Are you aware that it’s inspired by a true story? It’s not the only case of a whistle blower’s career being destroyed.
    In any case, I think you’re right. This Oath is not going to change anything.

  28. John Woods says:

    Apologies, the first line was supposed to be quoted, but apparently the HTML got stripped. So that should have been:
    “Perhaps it was just my educational experiences, but I don’t think that there is much scientific misconduct occurring in academics.”