Confronting Scientists ' Normal Ethical Dilemmas

The recent furor over fabricated data in a paper of which Nobel laureate David Baltimore is a coauthor raises serious questions about the scientific community's approach to ethical issues. It also provides an opportunity for scientists to acknowledge and confront a broad array of ethical dilemmas that will never attract media attention, but can undermine science as much as the blatant violations that do make headlines. Many scientists' reactions to media accounts of scientific misconduct are

Michael Greenberg
Jun 9, 1991

The recent furor over fabricated data in a paper of which Nobel laureate David Baltimore is a coauthor raises serious questions about the scientific community's approach to ethical issues. It also provides an opportunity for scientists to acknowledge and confront a broad array of ethical dilemmas that will never attract media attention, but can undermine science as much as the blatant violations that do make headlines.

Many scientists' reactions to media accounts of scientific misconduct are based on the assumption that some elected officials, disenchanted researchers, or journalists are behind the gossip--trying to advance themselves by destroying the career of one eminent scientist or another. They assume that scientists in general are basically ethical people who simply need to be more aware of constantly changing legal requirements, improve their housekeeping practices, maybe attend a seminar or two on ethics, and pay closer attention to the work of their junior colleagues....

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