Nicholas Goldberg: Can scientists moonlight as activists — or does that violate an important ethical code?
It’s a question I get asked often. And yet it’s one that is actually difficult to answer. The reason is that we often don’t know how to answer it. We have our own little ethical code of honor and integrity. And those are really important codes. And so one can’t tell other scientists to go out and do what they do, even if they are willing to play that game.
We’re very good at saying that we’re scientists. And we’re good at saying that a scientist always tries to do their best to serve the public interest. But it’s not always easy to know what the public interest is.
And so people like myself who play a role of moonlighting scientist are constantly going to be asked to do things that they may not wish to do; and I think some of us in fact feel that we have to play the game.
In a world where it’s so easy to say “If I really wanted to, I could go out there and convince people to do something,” you know there’s a lot of people who are looking for ways to use their position to help the public in some way. And one of the things about being a scientist is that you have a certain responsibility to try — to try to serve the public interest. And that’s partly why you do these other things.
And I say that to those who question whether I’m putting myself in the public interest. I understand the question. But I do it because I believe that I have the responsibility, as the scientist who is going to do his best to serve the public interest, to try to do my best to do what I can — to give my best to making the world as a science teacher a more interesting place to live in.
That’s a responsibility that I assume. I do it because I believe that I have the responsibility, as a teacher, as a researcher, to be a good servant to the public in general, and