A Gendered Approach to Science Ethics for US and UK Physicists
Some research indicates that women professionals—when compared to men—may be more ethical in the workplace. Existing literature that discusses gender and ethics is confined to the for-profit business sector and primarily to a US context. In particular, there is little attention paid to gender and ethics in science professions in a global context. This represents a significant gap, as science is a rapidly growing and global professional sector, as well as one with ethically ambiguous areas. Adopting an international comparative perspective, this paper relies on 121 semi-structured interviews with US and UK academic physicists to examine how physicists perceive the impact of gender on science ethics. Findings indicate that some US and UK physicists believe that female scientists handle ethical issues within science in a feminine way whereas their male colleagues approach ethics in a masculine way. Some of these physicists further claim that these different approaches to science ethics lead to male and female scientists’ different levels of competitiveness in academic physics. In both the US and the UK, there are “gender-blind” physicists, who do not think gender is related to professional ethics. Relying on physicists’ nuanced descriptions this paper contributes to the current understanding of gender and science and engineering ethics.
KeywordsScience ethics Gender Academic physics Workplace
Research for this paper was funded by National Science Foundation EESE Grant 1237737, “Ethics among Physicists in Cross-National Context,” Elaine Howard Ecklund, PI, Kirstin R.W. Matthews and Steven Lewis, co-PIs.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Achenbach, J. (2015). Top journal crack down to deter scientific fraud. Standard Examiner. http://www.standard.net/Business/2015/01/28/Top-journals-crack-down-to-deter-scientific-fraud.html. Accessed 12 May 2015.
- Belenky, M., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R., & Tarule, J. M. (1986). Women’s way of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Blau, F. D., Brinton, M. C., & Grusky, D. (2006). The declining significance of gender?. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Blickenstaff, J. C. (2005). Women and science careers: Leaky pipeline or gender filter. Gender & Ethics, 17(4), 369–386.Google Scholar
- Bonilla-Silva, E. (2006). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism an the persistence of racial inequality in America. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Connell, R. W. ( 2005). Masculinities. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Douglas, M. (1986). How institutions think. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
- Ecklund, E. H., & Lincoln, A. (2016). Failing families, failing science: Work-family conflict in academic science. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Essed, P. (1996). Diversity: Gender, color, and culture. (R. Circour, Trans.). Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar
- Fang, F. C., Benett, J. W., & Casadevall, A. (2013). Males are overrepresented among life science researchers committing scientific misconduct. Observation, 4(1), 1–3.Google Scholar
- Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Grusky, D. B., & Charles, M. (2000). Is there a worldwide sex segregation regime? In D. B. Grusky (Ed.), Social stratification: Class, race, and gender in sociological perspective. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
- Merton, R. K. (1973). The sociology of science: Theoretical and empirical investigations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Parsons, T., & Bales, R. (1955). Family, socialization and interaction process. Glencoe: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Rubin, H. J., & Rubin, I. S. (2011). Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data. Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
- Schilt, K. (2011). Just one of the guys: Transgender men and the persistence of gender inequality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
- The Office of Research Integrity. (N.d.). Definition of research misconduct. https://ori.hhs.gov/definition-misconduct. Accessed 18 June 2015.
- Thomas, W. I., & Thomas, D. S. (1928). The child in America: Behavior problems and programs. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar