Seminar: Dr Cathy Legg, "Scientific Integrity"

Past Event

29 April 2009, 4:00pm - 6:00pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

Dr Cathy Legg, Department of Philosophy, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Abstract: This paper asks: i) Is there an ethics of scientific inquiry? ii) If so, how does it relate to general ethics? One might think the answers are simply: i) Yes – for there is a lot of scientific inquiry about, and it is obvious that some scientists perform it more responsibly than others. ii) The ethics of scientific inquiry is merely a special case of general ethics, derivable from its general rules plus accidents of the particular situation of research. However, looking at case studies of scientific misconduct (e.g. Elias Alsabti, who published over 50 entirely plagiarized cancer ‘research’ articles) a delicate question arises. Should identification and correction of these abuses come from a) ethicists or b) scientists? Should budding scientists be required to take a course in ‘research ethics’ as part of their training? But isn’t apprenticeship in a research community in some sense already a moral education? Conversely, isn’t ethics itself a branch of inquiry, in which case ethicists should be forced to take their own courses? To address this tangle some ideas about the relationship between theory and practice in classical pragmatism are raised, and position b) is argued for.