A code of ethics for the life sciences

  • Jones N
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The activities of the life sciences are essential to provide solutions
for the future, for both individuals and society. Society has demanded
growing accountability from the scientific community as implications of
life science research rise in influence and there are concerns about the
credibility, integrity and motives of science. While the scientific
community has responded to concerns about its integrity in part by
initiating training in research integrity and the responsible conduct of
research, this approach is minimal. The scientific community justifies
itself by appealing to the ethos of science, claiming academic freedom,
self-direction, and self-regulation, but no comprehensive codification
of this foundational ethos has been forthcoming. A review of the
professional norms of science and a prototype code of ethics for the
life sciences provide a framework to spur discussions within the
scientific community to define scientific professionalism. A
formalization of implicit principles can provide guidance for
recognizing divergence from the norms, place these norms within a
context that would enhance education of trainees, and provide a
framework for discussing externally and internally applied pressures
that are influencing the practice of science. The prototype code
articulates the goal for life sciences research and the responsibilities
associated with the freedom of exploration, the principles for the
practice of science, and the virtues of the scientists themselves. The
time is ripe for scientific communities to reinvigorate professionalism
and define the basis of their social contract. Codifying the basis of
the social contract between science and society will sustain public
trust in the scientific enterprise.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Code
  • Ethics
  • Life sciences
  • Norms
  • Professionalism
  • Research integrity
  • Social contract

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  • Nancy L. Jones

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