An Ethical Framework for Presenting Scientific Results to Policy-Makers

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Scientists have the ability to influence policy in important ways through how they present their results. Surprisingly, existing codes of scientific ethics have little to say about such choices. I propose that we can arrive at a set of ethical guidelines to govern scientists’ presentation of information to policymakers by looking to bioethics: roughly, just as a clinician should aim to promote informed decision-making by patients, a scientist should aim to promote informed decision-making by policymakers. Though this may sound like a natural proposal, I show it offers guidance that conflicts with standard scientific practices. I conclude by considering one cost of the proposal: that it would prevent scientists from acting as advocates in a way that is currently common in certain fields. I accept that the proposal would restrict scientists’ political advocacy rights, but argue that the benefits of adopting it — promoting democratic governance — justify the restriction.
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Archival date: 2021-04-30
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