Ethics for Scientific Consultants



There has been much discussion and some publicity, especially during the past decade, about ethical practices in science, and about individual violations of a “code of ethics” that has the dictionary definition of “the system or code of morals of a particular person, religion, group, or profession.” Public scrutiny has focused (at times gleefully) on cases of professional malfeasance among academic and industry scientists in particular. One positive effect of the media attention has been to make it clear to the public that most professionals and professional organizations adhere to codes of ethical practices that have been formulated, debated, accepted, and published. Scientific consultants find themselves in the somewhat unique position of being expected to subscribe, in their professional behavior, to three interacting codes of ethical practices: that related to science per se, that related to scientific consulting as a science-based business, and that related to business practices in general, whatever their form. The body of rules that describes each of these codes of practice can be visualized as a circle (or at least as an irregularly circular and easily punctured membrane) encompassing acceptable ethical behavior. Acceptability is strongest at the center of the enclosure, but is never universal, and decreases rapidly to zero as the margins of the circle are reached (Figure Three).


Business Ethic Scientific Consultant Business Enterprise Ethical Practice Consultant Ethic 
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© Carl J. Sindermann and Thomas K. Sawyer 1997

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