Ambiguity, Trust, and the Responsible Conduct of Research

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Ambiguity associated with everyday practice of science has made it difficult to reach a consensus on how to define misconduct in science. This essay outlines some of the important ambiguities of practice such as distinguishing data from noise, deciding whether results falsify a hypothesis, and converting research into research publications. The problem of ambiguity is further compounded by the prior intellectual commitments inherent in choosing problems and in dealing with the skepticism of one's colleagues. In preparing a draft code of ethics for the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), an attempt was made to take into account the ambiguities of practice. Also, the draft code adopted trust as its leading principle, specifically the importance of trust as a condition necessary for there to be science. During revision of the code, the focus on trust was changed. The new orientation was on trust as a consequence of carrying out science responsibly. By addressing the obligations necessary to engender trust, the ASBMB ethics code not only sets professional standards, but also makes a clear statement of public accountability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999


  • Ambiguity
  • Code
  • Ethics
  • Research
  • Responsible research conduct
  • Trust
  • Truth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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