In this paper, I will discuss the responsibilities that scientists have for ensuring their work is interpreted correctly. I will argue that there are three good reasons for scientists to work to ensure the appropriate communication of their findings. First, I will argue that scientists have a general obligation to ensure scientific research is communicated properly based on the vulnerability of others to the misrepresentation of their work. Second, I will argue that scientists have a special obligation to do so because of the power we as a society invest in them as specialists and professionals. Finally, I will argue that scientists ought to ensure their work is interpreted correctly based on prudential, self-interested considerations. I will conclude by offering suggestions regarding policy considerations.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Thank you to Reviewer #1 for this objection.
Thanks to Adam Henschke for raising this point in conversation.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. AAAS R&D Funding Update. 20 March 2009. http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/FY2009update.pdf (accessed June 8, 2010)
Ball P (2006) Damning all nanomaterials would be damned silly. Nature News (16 October. Website: http://www.nature.com/news/2006/061016/full/news061016-6.html, Accessed: 2 September, 2010)
Bauer W, Petkova K, Boyadjieva P (2000) Public knowledge of and attitudes to science: alternative measures that may end the “science war”. Sci Technol Human Values 25(1):30–51
Dawkins R (2008) The God delusion. Mariner Books
Fine C (2008) Will working mothers’ brains explode? The popular new genre of neurosexism. Neuroethics 1:69–72
Goodin RE (1985a) Protecting the vulnerable: a re-analysis of our social responsibilities. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
Goodin RE (1985b) Vulnerabilities and responsibilities: an ethical defense of the welfare state. Am Polit Sci Rev 79(3):775–787
Hamilton C (2007) Scorcher: the dirty politics of climate change. Black Inc. Agenda, Australia
Harris S (2005) The end of faith: religion, terror and the future of reason. W.W. Norton, New York
Kitcher P (2001) Science, truth and democracy. Oxford University Press, New York
Paull J, Lyons K (2008) Nanotechnology: the next challenge for organics. J Org Syst 3(1):3–22
Miller S, Selgelid MJ (2008) Ethical and philosophical consideration of the dual-use dilemma in the biological sciences. Springer, Dordecht
Resnik DB, Shamoo AE (2005) Bioterrorism and the responsible conduct of biomedical research. Drug Dev Res 63:121–133
Revkin AC (2009) Hacked e-mail data prompts calls for changes in climate research. New York Times, 28 November: A8
Selgelid MJ (2002) Societal decision making and the new eugenics. Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany
Stringer D (2009) Hackers leak e-mails, stoke climate debate. Associated Press, 21 November
About this article
Cite this article
Evans, N.G. Speak No Evil: Scientists, Responsibility, and the Public Understanding of Science. Nanoethics 4, 215–220 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11569-010-0101-z
- Applied ethics
- Ethics of science
- Ethics of technology
- Science communication