How Science Communication should be is an ethic open question; still significant.
We live in the ‘digital age‘, a time that has transformed how communication is thought and distributed. With the ubiquity of cellphones and other mobile devices that can connect us to the Internet world, the lines between content consumer and creator are blurred. Even more erased. So when the number and type of content sources increases, so does the possibility of citizens to receive and act upon distorted – or dishonest – information.
In this environment, citizens need credible and accurate science journalism to understand their community and the broader world, and to make informed civic decisions. Science Communicators adopt and uphold ethical standards that help assure their work serves the values of truth, transparency and community.
By doing so, individual science writers and the organizations that publish their work earn public confidence in their competence and integrity. But how does a science writer adhere to the highest ethical standards?
Science Writers – everywhere – uphold ethical standards by articulating principles that embody the core values of writing for scientific purposes, which usually include these:
- Seek the truth in order to report it as fully as possible.
- Give voice to the “voiceless”.
- Be transparent about your writing and research attitudes.
- Be fair and comprehensive in your approach to scientific stories.
- Avoid conflicts of interest when possible and disclose competing loyalties.
- Remain independent from those who would use their influence to distort the truth in order to advance their own agenda.
- Place your loyalty to the citizens you write and work for, above all other interests.
- Be vigilant and disciplined in your effort to verify information.
- Create and learn to manage a forum or an interactive blog for public debate
- Allow and deal with many form of criticism.
Once a science writer articulates by moral the core principles that are the aim of writing for the public ‘platea’, is mean that good ethical choices are made.
That practice requires leadership, critical thinking, asking open questions, identifying numerous alternatives for the given situation, and ultimately selecting the alternative that best serves these writing purposes.
Specific guidelines can be very helpful… But since guidelines cannot provide for every possible scenario of Life society and Academic Research Investments, they should complement rather than substitute the critical thinking necessary for solid ethical decision making.
Nowadays when the information is too wide, we are facing new “informational challenges“. Today we are overwhelmed with a wealth and variety of modes of expression, that can “hampered” us; in some ways. We all agree on the fact that if you do not ask the ‘right questions in the right time and in the right moment’ you forget that the main work that a communicator is running its for the reader following the current scientific and historical events. Creating that kind of “transparent” and clear communication can make tacit it is therefore subject to a number of factors and connections that you should always take into account. Just to begin to transform the piece written in a plot of clear answers to specific questions. Based on the current scientific reality.
So when citizens of a community are widely discussing information that has not been vetted or verified, science communicators must act to provide clarity. For example:
- What can we do to verify or discredit this information?
- How can we uncover more facts or context to enhance public understanding?
- What is our obligation to correct bad information introduced by others?
- When acknowledging this information, how can we make our confidence or lack of confidence clear?
Science Communication is made by people knowing that confidence and competence come not from knowing all the answers, but from having a clear understanding of science analysis, values and ethics, combined with the intellect to ask good questions that reveal alternative solutions and new pathways to the truth.
Science is much more than a body of Knowledge. It is a way of thinking. This is central to its success. Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions.
It counsels us to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which ones best match the facts. It urges on us a fine balance between no-holds-barred openness to new ideas, however heretical, and the most rigorous skeptical scrutiny of everything – new ideas and established wisdom.
We need wide appreciation of this kind of thinking. It works. It’s an essential tool for a democracy in an age of change. Our task is not just to train more scientists but also to deepen public understanding of science.
- K. Sagan, “Why We Need To Understand Science” in The Skeptical Inquirer Vol. 14, Issue 3 (Spring 1990)