Will Moralization of Science Lead to “Better” Science?

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In the fall of 2018, The US National Science Foundation (NSF) implemented a new policy on sexual harassment. A few months later, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), took a further step in the fight against harassment by announcing that researchers accused of harassment, but not yet found guilty, could nonetheless be excluded from the lists of potential reviewers of submitted projects. We also observe a recent tendency to call for the retraction of published peer-reviewed results on the basis that their conclusions are considered to go against the moral convictions of some social groups, though the lack of validity of the results has not been proven. It is certainly a legitimate question to ask whether these kinds of policies and moral critiques, which directly link the practice of science to the moral behavior of the scientists in the larger society, do not initiate a profound transformation in the relations between science and society by adding to the usually implicit norms governing the scientific community a new form of moralization of the scientists themselves. We analyze these recent events in terms of a new process of moralization of science and ask whether these new rules of conduct may lead to doing better or more robust science.

This content has been updated on 7 December 2022 at 10 h 20 min.