An appeal to my readers
Yeah, I'm talkin' to you!
My department has become the Source of All Required Ethics Training for a number of departments, programs, and colleges at my university, and this seems to flow more in some cases from external pressures (e.g., what the accrediting agency or funding agency requires) than from a deep respect for the value of a philosophical grounding in ethics. Of course, I have blogged about this a little.
But now, in a setting where you all are not pressing my department for an ethics course that will achieve some necessary end for you, I would like to ask for your honest opinions:
What kind of ethics training does a scientist really need?
If you are a scientist (or scientist-in-training), what pieces of information are most useful in your day-to-day scientific activities from the point of view of being a responsible scientist? Is it an ethical theory? A piece of policy? A rule of thumb for deciding how to go forward in a tricky situation? Where or how did you learn it? Are there aspects of being a "responsible" scientist that you wish you had learned more about, and if so, what are they?
Do you think being a responsible scientist in your particular field puts special requirements on you, or creates particular challenges? (I'm interested in a broad swath of "science" here -- including experimental and theoretical sciences, natural sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, and computer science and mathematics.)
Another way to cast the question is: If you (or a student in your field) had to take a class in ethics, what would you put in that class to make it maximally relevant?
Or: What do you want all the scientists in your field to understand about what it means to be a responsible scientist?
If you are a non-scientist, I'm guessing you're here because you have some interest in how science interacts with the other stuff going on in our world (such as policy decisions, education, etc.). Let me put a related question to you all:
What do you want scientists to know about ethics/how to be a responsible scientist? You can, of course, answer based on your favorite dystopian vision of what happens to everyone else if scientist don't have or don't use this crucial ethical information.
You can respond in the comments, or by email to me (dr.freeride AT gmail DOT com). If you could identify yourself as a scientist (with your field) or a non-scientist, that would be helpful.
Thanks for your feedback!