A collection of Hippocratic oaths for scientists

richjacobs_eleven_pt2_01by Rich Jacobs at Eleven, NYC 2002 (as seen here)

I was curious what types of guiding principles or oaths are available that scientists can stand behind.  Many of these oaths are freely available to view and download, but not all…  There is something terribly wrong with charging readers $34 to view: Daniel Fu-Chang Tsai Ding-Shinn Chen 2003. An Oath for Bioscientists. J Biomed Sci. 10:569-576, or $15 for 24 hr access to Davis et al., 2008. A graduate student oath. Science. 1587-8b.  New oaths  for scientists should also address Open Access (to the oaths!).

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STUDENT PUGWASH USA pledge

“I promise to work for a better world, where science and technology are used in socially responsible ways. I will not use my education for any purpose intended to harm human beings or the environment. Throughout my career, I will consider the ethical implications of my work before I take action. While the demands placed upon me may be great, I sign this declaration because I recognize that individual responsibility is the first step on the path to peace.”

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Sir David King‘s UNIVERSAL CODE OF ETHICS on Wikipedia

  • Act with skill and care in all scientific work. Maintain up to date skills and assist their development in others.
  • Take steps to prevent corrupt practices and professional misconduct. Declare conflicts of interest.
  • Be alert to the ways in which research derives from and affects the work of other people, and respect the rights and reputations of others.
  • Ensure that your work is lawful and justified.
  • Minimise and justify any adverse effect your work may have on people, animals and the natural environment.
  • Seek to discuss the issues that science raises for society. Listen to the aspirations and concerns of others.
  • Do not knowingly mislead, or allow others to be misled, about scientific matters. Present and review scientific evidence, theory or interpretation honestly and accurately.

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UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, SCIENTIFIC OATH (on Wikipedia)

Davis, K.D., Seeman, M.V., Chapman, J. and Rotstein, O.D., 2008. A Graduate Student Oath. Science. 320:1587-1588

“I have entered the serious pursuit of new knowledge as a member of the community of graduate students at the University of Toronto. I declare the following:

  • Pride: I solemnly declare my pride in belonging to the international community of research scholars.
  • Integrity: I promise never to allow financial gain, competitiveness, or ambition cloud my judgment in the conduct of ethical research and scholarship.
  • Pursuit: I will pursue knowledge and create knowledge for the greater good, but never to the detriment of colleagues, supervisors, research subjects or the international community of scholars of which I am now a member.

By pronouncing this Graduate Student Oath, I affirm my commitment to professional conduct and to abide by the principles of ethical conduct and research policies as set out by the University of Toronto.”

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The text below is copied directly from IDEONEXUS post on science oaths:

“GrrlScientist has one version of the Scientist’s Hippocratic Oath:

  • I promise never to allow financial gain, competitiveness or ambition cloud my judgment in the conduct of ethical research and scholarship. I will pursue knowledge and create knowledge for the greater good, but never to the detriment of colleagues, supervisors, research subjects or the international community of scholars of which I am now a member.

Dr. Gene Weltfish, who teaches anthropology at Columbia, has another version:

  • I pledge that I will use my knowledge for the good of humanity and against the destructive forces of the world and the ruthless intent of men; and that I will work together with my fellow scientists of whatever nation, creed or color, for these, our common ends.

The Institute for Social Invention has yet another version:

  • I vow to practice my profession with conscience and dignity; I will strive to apply my skills only with the utmost respect for the well-being of humanity, the earth, and all its species; I will not permit considerations of nationality, politics, prejudice, or material advancement to intervene between my work and this duty to present and future generations. I make this Oath solemnly, freely, and upon my honor.

The Oath of the Scientist from Lucy and Stephen Hawking’s George’s Secret Key to the Universe is my favorite so far:

  • I swear to use my scientific knowledge for the good of Humanity. I promise never to harm any person in search of enlightenment. I shall be courageous and careful in my quest for greater knowledge about the mysteries that surround us. I shall not use scientific knowledge for my own personal gain or give it to those who seek to destroy the wonderful planet on which we live. If I break my oath, may the beauty and wonder of the Universe forever remain hidden from me.”
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One response to “A collection of Hippocratic oaths for scientists

  1. I agree one is needed. I have some comments on what should be in one here: http://ockhamsbeard.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/scientific-hippocratic-oath/.

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