Sunday, 6 April 2008

Right and Wrong in Science.

A very interesting and thought provoking paper has appeared at arXiv. Crime and punishment in scientific research by Mathieu Bouville attempts to show discrepancy between the current policies for scientific misconduct and the goals of promoting Science in its various aspects, including getting more knowledge about Reality.
Arguments against scientific misconduct one finds in the literature generally fail to support current policies on research fraud: they may not prove wrong what is typically considered research misconduct and they tend to make wrong things that are not usually seen as scientific fraud, in particular honest errors. I argue that society cannot set a rule enjoining scientists to be honest, so any such rule can only be internal to science. Therefore society cannot legitimately enforce it. Moreover, until an argument is provided to prove that lack of honesty is far worse than lack of technical competence, intentional deceit should not be punished much more harshly than technical errors

While the paper is short and for me just an intro to the subject, it is interesting and opened my eyes to the mismatch between the human side of doing Science and its general aims.

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