Week 8 – Ethical issues in scientific communication

Guest: Dr. Julie Simpson, Director, UNH Research Integrity Services.

Ethical issues relating to scientific communication include many of the topics you’ve likely examined via UNH’s RCR training modules  in areas such as misconduct, data management, conflict of interest, and authorship. An additional, overarching concern is the social responsibility of scientists with respect to the communication and application of their work.

Among the specific topics are timely and clear communication of findings in general; accurate and effective communication with non-scientists, including media; translating results into policy options; providing “policy neutral” scientific information (or playing other “apolitical” roles); making your own personal and professional interests transparent; effectively communicating uncertainty; and taking responsibility for how you use your professional expertise (or how others may use it).

These issues arise in different ways, in different situations; we’ll explore them in class via personal examples and public case studies, so here is how you should prepare:

1. Choose a case study to focus on. This could be something that’s come up in your own research project, or your field (for instance, Trevor, Ashley, and Nancy have already raised relevant questions about social impact of communication – good, bad, and ugly – in their own blogs). Or you could choose one from the list Julie Simpson suggested: “Climategate”; the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, and the subsequent trial of Italian seismologists; or Andrew Wakefield and the MMR vaccine. There is a TON of information easily available about all of those cases – Julie suggests you start with a simple web search.

2. By next Tuesday evening, please post on your blog a very brief summary of the case you chose, what ethical issues related to scicomm you think it raises, and some thoughts about its societal impact (as well as your questions). Posting by Tuesday p.m. will allow Julie – and the rest of us – to review everyone’s ideas beforehand, so we can discuss them together in person  in class on Wednesday.


5 thoughts on “Week 8 – Ethical issues in scientific communication

  1. Pingback: Retractions! |

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