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Rigour, respect and responsibility: A universal ethical code for scientists

This is a public statement of the values and responsibilities of scientists. They are intended to include anyone whose work uses scientific methods, including social, natural, medical and veterinary sciences, engineering and mathematics. It aims to foster ethical research, to encourage active reflection among scientists on the wider implications and impacts of their work, and to support constructive communication between scientists and the public on complex and challenging issues.

Individuals and institutions are encouraged to adopt and promote these guidelines. It is meant to capture a small number of broad principles that are shared across disciplinary and institutional boundaries. They are not intended to replace codes of conduct or ethics relating to specific professions or areas of research.
 

Rigour, respect and responsibility: A universal ethical code for scientists
Rigour, honesty and integrity

  • Act with skill and care in all scientific work. Maintain up to date skills and assist their development in others.
  • Take steps to prevent corrupt practices and professional misconduct. Declare conflicts of interest.
  • Be alert to the ways in which research derives from and affects the work of other people, and respect the rights and reputations of others.


Respect for life, the law and the public good

  • Ensure that your work is lawful and justified.
  • Minimise and justify any adverse effect your work may have on people, animals and the natural environment.


Responsible communication: listening and informing

  • Seek to discuss the issues that science raises for society. Listen to the aspirations and concerns of others.
  • Do not knowingly mislead, or allow others to be misled, about scientific matters. Present and review scientific evidence, theory or interpretation honestly and accurately.

Commentary

There are already powerful incentives for individuals and for institutions to adhere to the principles set out in these guidelines. These include: the high professional and ethical standards upheld by the scientific community; structures put in place by employers, professional bodies and funders to enforce these standards; and national and international conventions, treaties and laws.

Scientists and institutions are encouraged to reflect on and debate how these guidelines may relate to their own work. For example, acting with rigour, honesty and integrity may include: not committing plagiarism or condoning acts of plagiarism by others; ensuring that work is peer reviewed before it is disseminated; reviewing the work of others fairly; ensuring that primary data that may be needed to allow others to audit, repeat or build on work, are secured and stored. Similarly, in communicating responsibly, scientists need to make clear the assumptions, qualifications or caveats underpinning their arguments.