What do you think is unethical in science?

Science ethics
Ethics in science

The greatest challenge lies in jeopardizing the scientific ethos. We will not experience this challenge as an object of political debate. Rather, the endangerment finds a certain institutional echo in the existence of the numerous ethics committees and ethics councils, but it cannot be stopped with the official definition of ethical principles alone.

The role of the ethics committees

The question remains whether and how such principles are conceivable. Codes of conduct, compliance commitments, best practice papers and glossy guiding principles do not replace the answer because they do not even pose the fundamental question of the existence of ethical principles. Often enough, the reports and recommendations of the public ethics institutions are exhausted in practical advice that hardly reaches the level of banal association rules. Ethics in science demands more: after a reflection on the concept of ethics under the conditions of a demystified science, after methodical stringency and content consistency and only then after practical instructions on how to behave.

Only in this way can ethics in science be imagined; only as scientifically founded ethics can they find acceptance in science and provide orientation. Don't get me wrong: my aim is not to criticize the work of the ethics committees or that of their members. The orders and appointments made deserve criticism. The collegial composition of the committees should reflect scientific and social diversity, but are ethics a product of the majority convictions in society? Your collective expertise is supposed to vouch for ethical authority, but don't the commissions ultimately only serve as a substitute for legitimation for the political system? In individual cases, the commissions should only, or as it is also called: "primarily", be active in a particularly ethically relevant field, namely the life sciences. But doesn't the work of the committee on the ethics service of the specialist legislature go to waste with this restriction? The ethics committees should and will continue to exist - hopefully. Hopefully, however, the realization will also ripen that they alone cannot put a stop to the increasing endangerment of the scientific ethos. More is needed to do this. We are all challenged to counter this threat.

Lack of ethical awareness

The fact that a dangerous imbalance arises, changes are in progress, is revealed to the public in the isolated misconduct of individual scientists who fraudulently strive for scientific splendor without scientific depth. Plagiarism, data manipulation and title trading are the sad keywords that catch the eye as the headlines. The change is also reflected indirectly in the professional behavior of graduates who have experienced academic socialization.

Since the economic and financial crisis, we have known of greedy managers who could not lose an ethical awareness because they never had it. We hear from British doctors who ask women who have failed to have children to pay for each artificial insemination with an egg, which they then use for cloning experiments. They are all scientifically trained. We have to deal with commercial "doctoral consultants" who are up to mischief in a legal gray area, but often also simply illegally. The examples could be continued.