Reducing Ethical Hazards in Knowledge Production

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Abstract

This article discusses the ethics of knowledge production (KP) from a cultural point of view, in contrast with the more usual emphasis on the ethical issues facing individuals involved in KP. Here, the emphasis is on the cultural environment within which individuals, groups and institutions perform KP. A principal purpose is to suggest ways in which reliable scientific knowledge could be produced more efficiently. The distinction between ethical hazard and (un)ethical behaviour is noted. Ethical hazards cannot be eliminated but they can be reduced if the cultural ambience is suitable. The main suggestions for reducing ethical hazards in KP relate to the review process. It is argued that some defects of the current, largely anonymous, review process could be ameliorated by a process of comprehensive, open and ongoing review (COOR). This includes partial professionalisation of the work of reviewing. Review at several stages is a vital part of the long filtering that incorporates some claims into the canon of reliable knowledge. The review process would be an acknowledged and explicit part of KP - a respected, public and rewarded activity. COOR would be expensive but cost-effective. The costs should be built explicitly into research culture. Finally, the considerations about a more 'KP friendly' culture lead to advocacy of a 'long-term, short-term' synthesis; that is, of the synthesis of long-term vision, such as a more cooperative and less competitive culture, with incremental changes which may be implemented in the short term.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-389
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Volume22
Issue number2
Early online date20 May 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

Keywords

  • Knowledge production
  • Ethical hazards
  • Ethos of science
  • Peer review
  • Comprehensive review
  • Openness

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