Scientists shouldn’t forget ethics, says BARC director

As scientists work towards breakthroughs in areas of energy, agriculture and healthcare, they must not forget ethical issues surrounding them, RK Sinha, director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, said on Friday.
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Updated on Jan 29, 2011 12:23 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai

As scientists work towards breakthroughs in areas of energy, agriculture and healthcare, they must not forget ethical issues surrounding them, RK Sinha, director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, said on Friday.

“There are pressures on our scientists and engineers to perform, publish or perish,” said Sinha, at the inauguration of the XI All India Meeting of Women in Science on ‘Science and Technology: Ethical Issues’.

“Accounting for the short-term and long-term consequences of different sciences and technologies, along with the highest standards of ethical conduct — which could often be in conflict with their individual career goals — is of utmost importance.”

Sinha stressed on the need to mentor young scientists on ethical issues coupled with mandatory formal gatherings to discuss various aspects.

Delving into the importance of ethical issues in science, professor P Balram, director, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, said it was taken seriously only after World War 2 where gas chambers with poisonous gas were used to kill humans as well as the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“Ethics of science is a post-World War 2 phenomenon. Apart from the atom bomb, several other things in scientific research are also facing ethical dilemmas,” said Balram referring to genetic medicine, eugenics and stem cells.

“On the other side, there are phenomena such as misconduct in science, fabrication of data, plagiarism, false claims, credit-sharing and authorship issues,” he added.

Stating that scientists must dispel unfounded beliefs, Balram added, “They have a duty to dispel any misconceptions of ethical issues such as reproduction and agriculture that directly affect or benefit the common man.”

Established in 1973, the Indian Women Scientists Association comprises 2,000 members, involved in various awareness programmes for school and college students, spotting talents as well as providing scholarship for needy students.

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