Stephen Wiley on rogue scientists

“[I]t often seems that the scientific press is more interested in publicizing the bad behavior of scientists rather than our accomplishments.”

-Stephen Wiley, writing in The Scientist

Wiley, a systems biologist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and a regular columnist for The Scientist, is cheered by all the recent positive coverage of Darwin, noting our morbid fascination with rogue scientists up to no good. He writes that although surveys suggest that the general public is fairly accepting of science’s bad apples, scientists themselves get very vocal when one of their number does wrong. This exercise, he thinks, serves as an opportunity to reinforce a “shared sense of morality” in a profession with no formal structure of authority, a “social compact” which in turns helps researchers stay on the straight and narrow. Public disgraces serve as cautionary tales – but he still wishes there were more positive stories of scientific integrity out there to inspire. According to Wiley, the best role models are “those scientists we have some chance of actually emulating” – not merely one ones making the lucky discoveries.

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