Ethics and Science Communication redux

Recently, I wrote an editorial (with my colleague Fabien Medvecky) in JCOM which revisits the idea that science communication should have an ethical component.  This editorial is, for us, the beginning of talking about a much larger project on which we’re working. But what should our ‘ethics’ conversation look like? Over the years, I’ve heard and seen some suggestions for ethical codes for science communication (some directed toward a journalistic vein, others toward PR, still others that look like academic research codes, and yet others borrowing heavily from communication). We think it’s time to re-open this conversation and are developing some solutions to the ‘multiple codes’ problem. I’d love to talk further with colleagues about this.  Our starting proposition is to think about medicine and its principle ‘first, do no harm’. What would a starting proposition for science communication be?


2 thoughts on “Ethics and Science Communication redux”

  1. I would be very interested in discussing this further. I have often wondered about not just a code of ethics for science communication but also wondered what a “manifesto for science communication” might look like (ie similar to the First Things First manifesto of designers

    My own contribution to the JCom ethics issue, “Science communication: process, power and politics”, argues that public engagement shares not only knowledge but the power that goes with it. The commentary can be found here:

  2. I too have thought about this & find it cropping up in many meetings at the moment. Indeed the “do no harm” starting-point keeps being mentioned. Of course, most of my research is about social justice & science communication, which means my focus in terms of ethics is quite specifically on issues of inclusion/exclusion, oppression/privilege etc, and there is a wider scope to an ethical debate.

    However, the big question I return to again & again (& will likely post about before we meet in Italy if I can grasp the time to) is that given my research (& that of others) repeatedly finds exclusion is embedded in science communication practices & institutions in ways that exacerbate socio-historic oppressions, what can we salvage – if anything? If we accept that the ‘work’ science communication does has very little to do with making science public for all (not something everyone might necessarily accept I realise!), then what exactly is the purpose of our enterprise? Can science communication be redeemed, made useful, turned into something transformative, emancipatory, relevant?

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