Thoughts on Social Responsibility and RCR
- How do scientists view minimizing risk versus maximizing benefits?
- What influences perceptions – the impact from public, domestic, legal, disciplinary, institutions?
- How do we establish priorities (if at all) among responsibilities?
- How do views on the cultivation of the next generation influence them, and is this, too, a social responsibility?
Thanks to Dr. Titus for highlighting the AAAS report. Because the pilot study used a convenience sample, we are not able to generalize findings beyond that sample. To remedy that constraint, AAAS has received a grant from NSF to construct and test a survey intrument that will include a sample of ~12,500 scientists and engineers from around the world. We hope to launch the survey in mid-2017. Should you want to be kept informed of our efforts, please contact Ellen Platts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been addressing the question raised by Dr. Titus for several years, seeking to make a case that RCR education should include social responsibility as one of its central topics. Even after the NIH 2009 statement cited by Dr. Titus, not many educators were on board with the notion, nor were many scientists. At the meeting of the 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity in Singapore, there was a very passionate debate on whether the planned Singapore Statement on Research Integrity (http://www.singaporestatement.org/statement.html) should make any reference to social responsibility. In the end, those who supported its inclusion prevailed, and the last item listed in the Statement acknowledges scientists' responsibility to society. Since then, interest in teaching about social responsibility has picked up, both in the scholarly literature and in the teaching of RCR. In my message to those who approach the topic tentatively, I can only state the following: No student is likely to be inspired by being told not to plagiarize or falsify data. That doesn't make such matters irrelevant to his/her education as a scientist. However, as educators we can all do more to inspire budding researchers in thinking of their careers in science as a way to serve society by putitng their knowledge and skills to work on making the world a better place.
Mark S. Frankel
Scientific Freedom, Responsiblity and Law Program, AAAS