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Suggested Citation:"The Researcher in Society." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2009. On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12192.
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Page 48
Suggested Citation:"The Researcher in Society." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2009. On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12192.
×
Page 49
Suggested Citation:"The Researcher in Society." National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2009. On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12192.
×
Page 50

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

48 On Being a S c i e n t i s t The Researcher in Society The standards of science extend beyond responsibilities that are inter- nal to the scientific community. Researchers also have a responsibility to reflect on how their work and the knowledge they are generating might be used in the broader society. Researchers assume different roles in public discussions of the potential uses of new knowledge. They often provide expert opinion or advice to government agencies, educational institutions, private companies, or other organizations. They can contribute to broad- based assessments of the benefits or risks of new knowledge and new technologies. They frequently educate students, policymakers, or members of the public about scientific or policy issues. They can lobby their elected representatives or participate in political rallies or protests. In some of these capacities, researchers serve as experts, and their input deserves special consideration in the policy-making process. In other capacities, they are acting as citizens with a standing equal to that of others in the public arena. Researchers have a professional obligation to perform research and present the results of that research as objectively and as accu- rately as possible. When they become advocates on an issue, they may be perceived by their colleagues and by members of the public as biased. But researchers also have the right to express their convictions and work for social change, and these activities need not undercut a rigorous commitment to objectivity in research. The values on which science is based—including honesty, fair- ness, collegiality, and openness—serve as guides to action in everyday life as well as in research. These values have helped produce a scien- tific enterprise of unparalleled usefulness, productivity, and creativ- ity. So long as these values are honored, science—and the society it serves—will prosper.

T h e R e s e a r c h e r i n S o c i e t y 49 Ending the Use of Agent Orange In the early 1940s, a graduate student in botany at the University of Illinois named Arthur W. Galston found that application of a synthetic chemical could hasten the flowering of plants, enabling crops to be grown in colder climates. But if the chemical was applied at higher concentra- tions, it was extremely toxic, causing the leaves of the plants to fall off. Galston reported the results in his 1943 thesis before moving to the California Institute of Technology and then serving in the Navy during the final years of World War II. Following the war, Galston learned that military researchers had read his thesis and had used it, along with other research, to devise powerful herbicides that could be used in wartime. Beginning in 1962, the U.S. military sprayed more than 50,000 tons of these herbicides on forests and fields in Vietnam. By far the most widely used mixture of de- foliants was known as Agent Orange, from the orange stripe around the 55-gallon drums used to store the chemicals. Galston later wrote that the use of his research in the development of Agent Orange “provided the scientific and emotional link that compelled my involvement in opposition to the massive spraying of these compounds during the Vietnam War.” At the 1966 meeting of the American Society of Plant Physiologists, he circulated a resolution citing the possible toxic effects of defoliants on humans and animals and the long-term con- sequences for food production and the environment, which he sent to President Lyndon Johnson. During the next several years, as evidence for the toxic effects of Agent Orange accumulated, Galston and a growing number of other scientists continued to oppose the use of defoliants in the Vietnam War. In 1969, he and several other scientists met with President Richard Nixon’s science adviser, whom Galston had known at Caltech, and presented him with information on the harmful effects of Agent Or- ange. The science adviser recommended to the president that the spraying be discontinued, and the use of defoliants was phased out in 1970, five years before the end of the war. Galton later wrote, “I used to think that one could avoid involvement in the anti-social consequences of science simply by not working on any project that might be turned to evil or de- structive ends. I have learned that things are not that simple. . . . The only recourse is for a scientist to remain involved with it to the end.”a a Galston, Arthur W. Science and Social Responsibility: A Case History. Annals of the New York Academy of Science (1972):196:223.

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The scientific research enterprise is built on a foundation of trust. Scientists trust that the results reported by others are valid. Society trusts that the results of research reflect an honest attempt by scientists to describe the world accurately and without bias. But this trust will endure only if the scientific community devotes itself to exemplifying and transmitting the values associated with ethical scientific conduct.

On Being a Scientist was designed to supplement the informal lessons in ethics provided by research supervisors and mentors. The book describes the ethical foundations of scientific practices and some of the personal and professional issues that researchers encounter in their work. It applies to all forms of research--whether in academic, industrial, or governmental settings-and to all scientific disciplines.

This third edition of On Being a Scientist reflects developments since the publication of the original edition in 1989 and a second edition in 1995. A continuing feature of this edition is the inclusion of a number of hypothetical scenarios offering guidance in thinking about and discussing these scenarios.

On Being a Scientist is aimed primarily at graduate students and beginning researchers, but its lessons apply to all scientists at all stages of their scientific careers.

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