assessment of the societies' efforts thus far and a discussion of additional measures that they might take to promote responsible research conduct.


Although individual scientists must bear ultimate responsibility for their actions, promoting ethical conduct need not be solely the responsibility of the individual. Indeed, exclusive emphasis on the individual ignores the importance of social structures in shaping individual consciences and behavior. There is clearly a role for scientific and engineering societies to play in influencing the moral tone and ethical climate in which research is conducted.

"To be a professional is to be dedicated to a distinctive set of ideals and standards of conduct,"2 and the evolution of any profession is, in large part, characterized by its efforts to define the expected character and proper conduct of its members. Members of a scientific discipline, like other professional groups, are bound together by similar aspirations, values, and training, and as such are a community whose members "are distinguished as individuals and as a group by widely shared goals, beliefs about the value of those goals, … about the appropriate means for achieving them, and about the kinds of relations which in general should prevail among themselves, and in many cases between themselves and others."3 The scientific disciplines, then, are a prominent normative reference group, whose values and standards of appropriate research practices serve as guides by which individual scientists organize and perform their work and by which outsiders can understand and evaluate their performance.

The commitment of individual professionals to the values central to their profession is what leads society to grant the professional group as well as individual members the authority and resources to pursue their self-determined work in the public interest. The scientific community has been vested by society with the power to determine who may enter the community, what knowledge and skills must be acquired to achieve professional status as a scientist, and by what standards of conduct individual scientists will be judged. In large measure, then, a scientist is defined by his or her relationship to the group or discipline, and the professional community is charged with developing means for ensuring that individual members act responsibly. This reliance on self-regulation by the scientific group is consistent with the American tradition of limited government and has distinct advantages over the obvious alternative—public regulation.

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