Codes of Conduct - Wider Context: Science Ethics
From a long-term perspective, exploring the issue of a Code of Conduct is an example of explorative research in the wider area of science ethics.
In this domain of ethics, the interrelationship between science, society and values is the focus of philosophical research. Various philosophies of science have an impact on the conceptualization of this interrelationship. It might be, for example, interesting to explore how is the relevancy today of the universalism that has been determinative for the development of academic science (Bernal, Merton, emphasizing the scientific community as a universal one, with science as a profession committed to basic values). Today, however, trust in science has diminished and the demarcations between science and other activities have been obliterated. Science nowadays is also conceptualized as a commercial enterprise, or at least closely connected to entrepreneurial and business activities. A more radical view conceptualizes science as an activity of rivalry and competition (Latour: science as war).
Given the uncertainty about the basic values involved in science, we are confronted with a paradox: there is a growing need to develop a code of conduct but at the same time there is a lack of clarity about what such a code will imply. Developing a code will therefore not merely be a matter of identifying which values are intrinsic in science. It will also be a matter of negotiation aimed at creating new perspectives of trust in relation to society. The basic values of science at least need to be connected with the notion of social responsibility and accountability. This development is reflective of the changes that has occurred in the recent history of bio-ethics: codes of conduct in health care not only have to articulate the basic values of the professionals but also to introduce the perspective of patients.
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