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On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research, Third Edition
strong philosophical, religious, cultural, or political beliefs that could influence scientific judgments.
Strongly held values or beliefs can compromise a person’s science in some instances. The history of science offers a number of episodes in which social or personal beliefs distorted the work of researchers. For example, the ideological rejection of Mendelian genetics in the Soviet Union beginning in the 1930s crippled Soviet biology for decades. The field of eugenics used the techniques of science to try to demonstrate the inferiority of particular human groups, according to nonscientific prejudices.
Despite such cautionary episodes, it is clear that all values cannot—and should not—be separated from science. The desire to do good work is a human value. So is the conviction that standards of honesty and objectivity must be maintained. However, values that compromise objectivity and introduce bias into research must be recognized and minimized. Researchers must remain open to new ideas and continually test their own and other’s ideas against new information and observations. By subjecting scientific claims to the process of collective assessment, different perspectives are applied to the same body of observations and hypotheses, which helps minimize bias in research.