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Performance Benchmark N.12.B.3
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Nature of Science
Scientific Inquiry
Science, Technology, and Society
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Students know the influence of ethics on scientific enterprise. E/S

“If I have seen further than other men, it is because I have stood upon the shoulders of giants.” Sir Isaac Newton wrote those words of himself in response to the many accolades he received for his extraordinary accomplishments in physics. To his credit, Newton believed in acknowledging the influence and scientific industry of his predecessors and contemporaries. His was an ethically responsible approach. As has been stated in a National Academy of Science document (, “With few exceptions, scientific research cannot be done without drawing on the work of others or collaborating with others. It inevitably takes place within a broad social and historical context, which gives substance, direction, and ultimately meaning to the work of individual scientists”.

Scientific Enterprise consists of that which is known and has been developed in science based on cumulative knowledge collected from historic times up to and including present day. Three large constructs of scientific enterprise are: 1. Scientific Theory (an explanation or model backed by results obtained from many tests or experiments); 2. Scientific Law (a rule which describes the behavior of something in nature and which may be used to predict natural events); and 3. Technology (the use of scientific discovery for practical purposes).

It is important to realize that the knowledge gained through science is amoral (neither good nor bad). How that knowledge is utilized by humans might have consequences which are considered moral or immoral. For example, scientists have learned that enormous energies are stored within atoms – energies which can be released by the initiation of atomic fission and/or atomic fusion. This is simply a fact. We have learned how to apply this knowledge in the construction of weapons. Depending upon one’s point of view, atomic weapons are morally justifiable, serving first to deter attack from our enemies, or if attack is launched, serving as a swift means of retribution as we seek to defeat our enemies. Of course, atomic weapons are also viewed as immoral, reprehensible weapons of mass destruction which indiscriminately kill civilian as well as military targets. Certain scientists would argue that they are there to make discoveries, and that what is done with those discoveries is not their concern. Other scientists are emphatic that they must consider the ramifications and consequences of potential misuse of their discoveries. Ethics in life, as well as in science, are not clear-cut.

The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary ( defines “ethics” as:

1. the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
2.a) a set of moral principles; a theory or system of moral values; b) the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group; c) a guiding philosophy; d) a consciousness of moral importance
3. a set of moral issues or aspects (as rightness)

Further, the definition of “moral” is given as:

1. a): of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior ETHICAL; b) expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior; c) conforming to a standard of right behavior; d) sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment; e) capable of right and wrong action…

Scientists are just as human as anyone else and, as such, must be diligent is assuring that their personal ethics and morals do not interfere with their professional ethics and morals For example, a scientist might personally abhor the use of human embryonic stem cells in research on tissue regeneration. This scientist might be tempted to sabotage such research, if involved in it, or even use fabricated data to advocate a position that adult stem cells are an equally viable alternative. In this case, the scientist allowed his/her personal ethics to interfere with, even to supersede, his/her professional ethics and responsibilities. Addressing this issue, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) defined professional ethics as: “those principles that are intended to define the rights and responsibilities of scientists in their relationship with each other and with other parties including employers, research subjects, clients, students, etc.". (R. Chalk, M.S. Frankel, and S.B. Chafer. AAAS Professional Ethics Project. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1515 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005. AAAS Publication 80-R-4. 1980.).

Various scientific organizations have developed codes of conduct to help their members behave in a responsible manner. For example, in 1994, the American Chemical Society (ACS) replaced their old (1965) The Chemist’s Creed with a revamped The Chemist’s Code of Conduct (
) which follows:

Chemists Acknowledge Responsibilities To:

The Public
Chemists have a professional responsibly to serve the public interest and welfare and to further knowledge of science. Chemists should actively be concerned with the health and welfare of co-workers, consumer and the community. Public comments on scientific matters should be made with care and precision, without unsubstantiated, exaggerated, or premature statements.

The Science of Chemistry
Chemists should seek to advance chemical science, understand the limitations of their knowledge, and respect the truth. Chemists should ensure that their scientific contributions, and those of the collaborators, are thorough, accurate, and unbiased in design, implementation, and presentation.

The Profession
Chemists should remain current with developments in their field, share ideas and information, keep accurate and complete laboratory records, maintain integrity in all conduct and publications, and give due credit to the contributions of others. Conflicts of interest and scientific misconduct, such as fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism, are incompatible with this Code.

The Employer
Chemists should promote and protect the legitimate interests of their employers, perform work honestly and competently, fulfill obligations, and safeguard proprietary information.

Chemists, as employers, should treat subordinates with respect for their professionalism and concern for their well-being, and provide them with a safe, congenial working environment, fair compensation, and proper acknowledgment of their scientific contributions.

Chemists should regard the tutelage of students as a trust conferred by society for the promotion of the student's learning and professional development. Each student should be treated respectfully and without exploitation.

Chemists should treat associates with respect, regardless of the level of their formal education, encourage them, learn with them, share ideas honestly, and give credit for their contributions.

Chemists should serve clients faithfully and incorruptibly, respect confidentiality, advise honestly, and charge fairly.

The Environment
Chemists should understand and anticipate the environmental consequences of their work. Chemists have responsibility to avoid pollution and to protect the environment.

Another very detailed document was developed by the USDA Forest Service Research & Development ( Their code, published in 2000 and modified in 2002, follows (please link to the complete document for commentary and clarification of each element of code).


I dedicate myself to the pursuit, promotion, and advancement of scientific knowledge.

I will conduct, manage, judge, and report scientific research honestly, thoroughly, and without conflict of interest.

I will prevent abuse of all resources entrusted to me and endeavor to treat human and animal subjects humanely, following established guidelines where they are available.

I will not willfully hinder the research of others nor engage in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or other professional misconduct.

I will welcome constructive criticism of my personal scientific research and offer the same to my colleagues in a manner that fosters mutual respect amid objective scientific debate.

I will recognize past and present contributors to my research and will neither accept nor assume unauthorized and/or unwarranted credit for another's accomplishments.

I will claim authorship for a research product only if I am willing to be held responsible for both the interpretation of the data and the conclusions as presented.

I will claim authorship for a research product only if I have made a major intellectual contribution (as part of conception, design, data collection, data analysis, or interpretation) and made significant contributions to its preparation (write, review, or edit).

I will not publish or use original ideas, research data, or unpublished findings of others without written approval.

I will refrain from duplicative publication of the same research findings as original.

I will show appropriate diligence toward preserving and maintaining resources, such as data records, that are entrusted to me.


Patricia A. Bolton of the Department of Energy (DOE) has written a treatise on scientific ethics ( In her paper, she divides ethics in science into two primary categories: 1. ethics of the topics and findings (morality – the question of whether science is good or bad) and 2. ethics of method and process (integrity – the nature of the design, the experimental procedures, and the reporting of the research effort). Ms. Bolton addresses, in Figure 1, eight forces she believes contributes to scientific integrity.

Figure 1. Intervention Points: Forces that Contribute to Scientific Integrity.

Bolton also categorizes errors of scientists as to the reason behind their occurrence. She includes the categories of:

1. Honest Mistakes – Scientists can make inadvertent mistakes during design, calibration, logging, data entry, and interpretation. Such errors, if noticed, could be corrected by the scientists themselves, or by other scientists who review or try to replicate the research.
2. Unethical Behavior or “Scientific Misdemeanors” – These are considered unacceptable practices. Examples of such behaviors include incomplete citation of previously published work and skewed selection of data or results to hide or disguise observations that do not fit the author’s conclusions.
3. Noncompliance – This refers to failures to follow practices dictated by law which may expose a scientist or institution to legal sanctions. Examples include the ethical treatment of human subjects and laboratory animals and the handling of dangerous materials.
4. Scientific Misconduct – Deliberate deceit and dishonesty fall into this category. Scientific misconduct has included forged or fabricated data, falsified or invented results, and plagiarism.

The journal Nature published a study in which 3247 scientists who had been funded by NIH (National Institutes of Health) responded to questions regarding ethical misconduct in which they might have engaged while conducting scientific research. The results are presented in Figure 2, and are rather disturbing.

Figure 2: Percentage of NIH funded Scientists Who Say They Have Engaged in the Following Ethical Misconduct (from Nature, 435, June 2005, p. 737)

Whether intentional or due to an incomplete understanding of ethical responsibility, too many incidences have occurred and continue to appear. Educational and governmental institutions have increasingly grown concerned; consequently, programs such as those at Dartmouth College ( and Roosevelt University (
have been created to teach science ethics.

Performance Benchmark N.12.B.3

Students know the influence of ethics on scientific enterprise. E/S

Common misconceptions associated with this benchmark.

1. Students incorrectly believe human emotions and feelings will serve sufficiently as a guide in making ethical decisions.

We have been taught that we will feel guilty if we make bad choices. In reality, some people feel guilty about simple indiscretions, while others experience little guilt about major infractions. We need to develop a cognitive appreciation, through education, of both acceptable and unacceptable practice in science.

2. Students inaccurately believe that ethics is relative to particular cultures in a way that science is not.

Students realize that different cultures throughout the world have developed unique tolerances as to what is and what is not acceptable behavior (ethics). At the same time, they have learned that scientists across the world utilize the same methodology while conducting scientific research. Students may thus feel that what is considered unethical behavior to one culture will be deemed ethical in another.

3. Students incorrectly believe science is objective while ethics is intrinsically emotional.

Students believe that scientific investigations always result in factual data, while the ethics and morals of scientists are largely influenced by emotion. As a result, students believe conclusions drawn following scientific experimentation are less apt to be subject to interpretation because they are based on facts, and do not realize that as scientists analyze data, whatever ethics those scientists possess might influence the interpretation. One need only look at the radically different interpretations on the importance of carbon dioxide in global warming to realize some scientists will manipulate or interpret data to have it represent their beliefs.

4. Students incorrectly believe scientists could behave in unethical manners and never get caught, since “non-scientists” would be unable to detect these behaviors.

While it is true that the general population might not easily notice scientific ethical misconduct, students should be aware that scientific research is peer-reviewed and made available for critique in scientific publications. Violations of scientific ethics are strongly condemned by the scientific community.

5. Students incorrectly believe all matters can be investigated and resolved with science. As such, ethics does not come into play when science provides facts.

There are topics which are strictly matters of ethics and morals; of those, science cannot provide an answer. For example, through science, we have learned that embryonic stem cells can repair or replace damaged tissue and organs. But science cannot tell us if it is proper to destroy human embryos in order to obtain those stem cells. It is strictly an ethical question. To some people, it means killing a potential person (the embryo) to save another person. Other people would argue the human embryo is not far enough along in its development to be considered a person with rights, and that harvesting its cells is in no way immoral. They would further argue that it is unethical to not utilize this knowledge science has provided to save an existing life. It is unlikely science will ever satisfactorily answer at what juncture following the fusion of sperm and egg human life actually begins. That will remain an ethical question for many, many years, no matter what laws are passed and what permissions are granted to the scientific and medical communities.

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Performance Benchmark N.12.B.3

Students know the influence of ethics on scientific enterprise. E/S

Sample Test Questions

1st Item Specification:  Identify “ethical” and “unethical” practices in scientific research and describe the differences between them (e.g., treatment of test subjects and falsifying data).

Depth of Knowledge Level 1

  1. The American Physiological Society conducted research into ethical infractions by scientists.  The infractions occurred from 1996 to 2004.  Use the diagram to answer the following question.


    The major ethical infraction which occurred between 1996 through 2004 was
    1. Conflicts of Interest (conflict between official responsibilities and private interests).
    2. Plagiarism (substantial unattributed textual copying of another’s work).
    3. Authors Disputes (disputes and conflicts over who qualifies for authorship).
    4. Redundant Publications (republishing parts of an already published article).
  1. According to ethical guidelines established by the National Academy of Science, which of the following is INCORRECT concerning scientific research?  Scientific research
    1. involves collaborating with other scientists.
    2. takes place within a broad social and historical context.
    3. must not be restricted by the influence of ethical concerns.
    4. cannot be done without drawing on the work of other scientists.
  1. “That which is known and has been developed in science based on cumulative knowledge collected from historic times up to and including present day” serves as the definition of scientific
    1. law.
    2. enterprise.
    3. theory.
    4. ethics.

Depth of Knowledge Level 2

  1. Read the following passage from, then answer the question.

    The Nazi sponsored science encompassed a wide range of fields. Research on diseases such as malaria, gangrene, tuberculosis, and wound and poison effects were heavily pursued. Josef Mengele, a scientist, worked closely with twins, as he would often infect one with a deadly disease, and upon the arrival of death, murder the other and compare the organs of the twins. Many medical experiments were conducted to try and improve the survival of German pilots in the Luftwaffe (air force). These tests included prisoners being subjected to high heat, high-pressure as well as low pressure, and freezing mixtures. Often the inmates were tested "until they expired."

    Which of these statements most likely reflects the ethical dilemma today’s doctors might have regarding the Nazi medical research?
    1. The doctors realize they will need to replicate the research to prove it correct, but know they will have difficulty obtaining enough twins for the experiments.
    2. Research designed to save the lives of military personnel is wrong, since it is the job of soldiers in the military to kill other human beings during war.
    3. Treating patients who have serious diseases ultimately results in the creation of resistant “superbugs” which would likely be used against us by future enemies.
    4. Though this research has provided information which could save lives, the means by which the data was obtained is unethical and morally degrading to the victims.
  1. Read the accompanying quote from C.P. Snow (The Search, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959), then answer the question.

    "The only ethical principle which has made science possible is that the truth shall be told all the time. If we do not penalize false statements made in error, we open up the way, don't you see, for false statements by intention. And of course a false statement of fact made deliberately, is the most serious crime a scientist can commit."

    Snow is putting forth his philosophy that
    1. to not penalize errors may encourage fraud or lead to a situation where scientists become tolerant of fraud.
    2. scientists who are careful to always conduct their research in an ethical manner will never make mistakes.
    3. a scientist who deliberately makes a false statement has committed a serious crime, and should be incarcerated.
    4. if a scientist makes a false statement even in error it is a serious breach of ethics likely followed by intentional false statements.

2nd Item Specification:  Identify potential sources of intentional bias in scientific endeavors and explain the motives and consequences (e.g., financial pressures related to funding and choosing experiments most likely to support a favored hypothesis).

Depth of Knowledge Level 1

  1. Patricia A. Bolton suggests deliberate deceit and dishonesty, including forged or fabricated data, falsified or invented results, and plagiarism belongs within the category of
    1. honest mistakes.
    2. noncompliance.
    3. scientific misconduct.
    4. ethical behavior.
  1. Which one of the following would constitute scientifically unethical behavior?  A scientist
    1. purposely releases a virus which causes sterility in individuals with genetic disorders.
    2. publishes information describing which radioactive substances are deadliest to humans.
    3. realizes (s)he made an error in experimental design, and then makes public this error.
    4. discovers a method to successfully clone mammals, including humans.
  1. Use the diagram to answer the following question.

(Derived from Nature, 435, June 2005, p. 737)

    Of the following Top Ten Unethical Behaviors, the most common ethical misconduct reported (the misconduct with the overall highest percentage of occurrence) was
    1. falsifying, or “cooking”, research data.
    2. using another’s ideas without obtaining permission or giving due credit.
    3. overlooking others’ use of flawed data or questionable interpretation of data.
    4. not properly disclosing involvement in firms whose products are based on ones’s own research.

Depth of Knowledge Level 2

  1. Read the excerpt from, then answer the following question.

    Michael Harvey Briggs built his scientific reputation on research into the effectiveness of contraceptives.  Briggs was considered a 'successful' scientist partly because he was able to obtain large research funding from private industry.  In particular, he conveniently found that the contraceptives manufactured by the company that funded his research were more effective than the contraceptives manufactured by competitors.  It took the charge of 'fraud' -- manipulation of data -- to bring Briggs down.  Of course, one of the prime reasons for fraud is to obtain results that are convenient for a preconceived result, which is often tied to a vested interest such as a corporate patron.

    Which of the following is an unethical behavior perpetrated by Briggs?  Briggs
    1. obtained large research funding from a pharmaceutical company which manufactured contraceptives, then tested the effectiveness of those contraceptives.
    2. manipulated data to suggest that the contraceptives produced by the company which funded his research were more effective than those of competitors.
    3. conducted research designed to determine which contraceptives are most effective, thus violating the tenets of Pro-Life advocates across the world.
    4. worked for a pharmaceutical company which manufactured drugs, and it is known that drugs can have harmful side-effects on people who take them.
  1. Woo Suk Hwang is a South Korean biomedical scientist who rose to fame after reporting a series of remarkable breakthroughs in the field of stem cell research.  He claimed to have succeeded in creating human embryonic stem cells by cloning.  Read the accompanying paragraph from regarding his downfall then answer the following question.

    The fraud in stem-cell research papers by Woo Suk Hwang has sent shock waves through scientific publishers everywhere. In a rare editorial move, the editor-in-chief of Science, Donald Kennedy, retracted two papers by Hwang and his team and advised the scientific community to consider the results invalid (Science 2006, 311, 335). The action followed an investigation by Seoul National University (South Korea) that reported that Hwang fabricated data, failed to produce any patient-specific stem-cell lines, misrepresented the source and numbers of oocysts (human eggs) used in the research, and obtained eggs from lab workers in a potentially coercive fashion.

    Which of the following is NOT a reasonable motive as to why Hwang produced fraudulent stem
    cell research?
    1. He would gain academic prestige by accomplishing what others had not.
    2. Producing ground-breaking results would help assure research funding.
    3. Hwang could gain personal wealth from the patents he would receive.
    4. The fraudulent research helped delay real research into an immoral field

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Performance Benchmark N.12.B.3

Students know the influence of ethics on scientific enterprise. E/S

Answers to Sample Test Questions

  1. D, DOK level 1
  2. C, DOK level 1
  3. B, DOK level 1
  4. D, DOK level 2
  5. A, DOK level 2
  6. C, DOK level 1
  7. A, DOK level 1
  8. C, DOK level 1
  9. B, DOK level 2
  10. D, DOK level 2

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Performance Benchmark N.12.B.3

Students know the influence of ethics on scientific enterprise. E/S

Intervention Strategies and Resources

The following is a list of intervention strategies and resources that will facilitate student understanding of this benchmark.

1. Potential Ethical Problems and Moral Misconduct Facing Scientists
The National Academy of Sciences prepared a document titled, On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research. The complete treatment addresses potential ethical and moral misconduct among scientists, and provides scenarios of ethical and moral dilemma (from which you can link to a suggested response).

On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research.

2. The Nature of Ethics in Science
Harlan B. Miller published a paper in which he thoroughly addresses the nature of ethics and the notion of moral status in general.

Science, Ethics and Moral Status

3. Science and Social Norms
David Resnik, of the University of Wyoming, wrote a paper in which he discusses concerns and goals regarding science and societal norms, as well as six basic principles of research and other ethical principles that apply to science.

Philosophical Foundations of Scientific Ethics

4. Science and Ethics Database
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has provided an extensive, searchable database in the following areas of ethics: Database 1: Who's Who in Ethics; Database 2: Ethics Institutions; Database 3: Ethics Teaching Programs; Database 4: Ethics Related Legislation and Guidelines; and Database 5: Codes of Conduct

Global Ethics Observatory (GEObs)

5. Ethical Violations Found in Science Publications
The journal, Advances in Physiology Education, published a detailed treatment of the major categories of ethical violations encountered during submission, review, and publication of scientific articles.

Ethics and Scientific Publication

6. Extensive List of Codes of Ethics
At Illinois Institute of Technology, the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions has created an exceptionally extensive website which lists over 850 codes of ethics from professional societies, corporations, government, and academic institutions. These codes are searchable, and available online.

Codes of Ethics Online

7. Case Studies of Scientific Fraud
Purdue University and nanoHUB (a resource for nanoscience and technology) have put together a PowerPoint presentation which addresses scientific fraud through case studies involving examples ranging from poor scientific practice to deliberate manipulation and fabrication of data.

Science Ethics and the Signs of Voodoo Science

8. Guidebook on Teaching Research Ethics
Judy Stern and Deni Elliot of Dartmouth College have put together a guidebook for course development and teaching of research ethics.

The Ethics of Scientific Research

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