Six Challenges for Ethical Conduct in Science
Six Challenges for Ethical Conduct in Science is an article authored by Petteri Niemi discussing ethical challenges that human beings encounter in their day-to-day activities. Niemi argues that there are various ethical regulatory bodies around the world that try to instill ethical conducts in institutions; however, their efforts have not been fully actualized due to the following challenges (2). The first challenge identified by Niemi is referred to as “routinization of action” where a certain behavior is done repeatedly until it becomes “acceptable” to the organization culture. “Routinization” of an action is quite rigid as it does not allow people to interrupt what they found the experienced colleagues behaving (Liljenquist 381). Niemi talks of Kantian picture of agency that makes humans adapt to the casual chains of the world and adjust to a setting that they have found. This argument resonates with the principle of universalizability as outlined in the Kantianism theory where an individual conforms unto everybody’s behavior. It indicates that a person will be comfortable by leading a life that is generally acceptable.
The second challenge as identified by Niemi is known social structures and power which indicates that there are some social constructs that guides individual behaviors (3). Niemi categorically says that humans have to explain a cause of action basing their argument on the direction of social structures. Individual pursuing personal goals must be cautious to the social structures developed by the social rules. This brings challenges to the agents of ethical conduct as some actions cannot be forced into people who have positions and powers in the society. Niemi provides an example of a professor who will use an institutional laboratory for his personal tests and he cannot be questioned due the power defined by the social structures (4). According to the social responsibility and professional theory, no profession is amoral and should work towards public good.
Thirdly, heuristics and biases in decision making without giving too much thought into the situation. Human beings are naturally judgmental and stereotypes which makes it difficult to enhance ethical conduct in institutions (Sunstein 533). Human beings are premeditated and shaped by the physical outlook of a situation. Niemi says that people will elicit great confidence in believing an individual is a librarian if the description given matches those of a librarian. They will not try and understand that there are various positions held in a library that does not necessarily represent a librarian. The principle of personal convictions indicates that an individual has a “ready-made” mindset that is quite difficult to revert. Biasness is quite unfortunate as it guides individual’s decisions even when they are wrong posing a great challenge to ethical conduct.
Human beings are brought up in a cultural setting that upholds certain moral standards. These standards are intrinsically internalized and they guide human actions and how they interact with the environment. Unfortunately, they at times depart from these ways and involve in what Niemi calls “moral disengagement mechanisms.” In this case, humans tend to avoid their responsibilities and push the blame to a third-party. They are clearly aware of the moral standards expected in a certain event but they ignore their responsibility completely. According to the Kantianism theory, the veil of ignorance principle puts a hindrance between a person’s action and the ethical expectation (Sunstein 563). When everybody assumes their responsibility and pushes the blame to another person implies that the action is not carried out correctly leading to ethical challenge.
The other challenge identified by Niemi is called situational variation that overlaps the theme of social nature. Situations may make an individual circumvent the allowed and generally accepted standards in handling a task. A good example is the willing to help an individual just because you understand they do not have a home or a meal. The situation makes an individual obliged to offer help which he or she could not have considered in another event (Liljenquist 382). Conversely, a situation may lead to negative outcomes that do not uphold ethical standards. According to Niemi, a researcher may tend to avoid a research protocol or take a shortcut just to meet a set deadline. They will not take the issue as major but just a side step to please the boss by meeting the deadline. Situations vary from one event to another and they largely influence how people make decisions.
Lastly, Niemi talks of pluralism which is defined as decisions that are based on multitude (7). According to the utilitarianism theory, an act is right if it serves the best interest to the greatest number of people. An act is defined as ethical based on the plural nature leaving other parties under-privileged. Most decisions are made basing on the majority rule and the average number of people it favors (Liljenquist 383). Therefore, it becomes difficult to bring equity in developing ethical standards due to pluralism. This constraint portrays unfavorable balance in trying to actualize ethics in a diversified setting. In general, these six factors are the negative consequences that act as major hindrance in promoting ethics among individuals or groups.
Liljenquist, Zhong, Galinsky, A. The Smell of Virtue: Clean Scents Promote Reciprocity And Charity. Psychological Science, (2010). 21(3), 381–383.
Niemi, Petteri. Six Challenges for Ethical Conduct in Science. Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. (2015). DOI 10.1007/s11948-015-9676-7
Sunstein, C. Moral heuristics. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, (2005). 28, 531–573.