by Srishti Batra – By the dictionary definition, ethics is “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity”. From a young age, we are taught importance of ethics and morals in our life for better living and the general good of society. We are taught not cheat others, but we all know that cheaters do exist in population.
On a professional front, it is very important to insure that organizations, institutes, and businesses follow ethical policies that have a wider effect on society. Science is no different, and we need to understand that we should not cheat. Scientific ethics demands honesty and transparency at all stages from data collection, from data reporting, publishing to communicating science. A discovery or innovation forms the basis for several other research projects. Therefore, if something incorrect is put into the literature, it will have adverse effects years later. Fraudulent scientific discoveries have created trouble for genuine science work, as they are not replicable or validated properly. It is the need of the hour that we go back and take our ethics lessons again.
The most famous and an old example of scientific fraud is by Charles Dawson, a British archaeologist who made some important discoveries with new fossil finds. He found fossil teeth of an unknown mammal and subsequently named it after him. He went on doing more fossil discoveries until the most controversial one in 1912, which he named “Piltdown Man”. He suggested that Piltdown man was the missing link between humans and apes, as the skull looks like a Human, but the jawbone was very different and it dated back to 500,000 years. It was exposed in 1953 that this discovery was a hoax, the fossil had altered mandibles and some teeth of an Orangutan deliberately put with the skull of medieval man, which dated only 500 years old.
Ps: I just touched on part of “Cheating and frauds”, but there are other attributes to ethics as well and we should adhere to them as well.
An Interesting read which inspired and provided information for my blog:
Book: Piltdown Man: The Secret Life of Charles Dawson
Editor’s Note: For an updated list of scientific studies retracted due to irreproducibility, fraud, ethical concerns, and other reasons, please check out: www.retractionwatch.com