Over many centuries, researchers have developed professional standards designed to enhance the progress of science and to avoid or minimize the difficulties of research. Though these standards are rarely expressed in formal codes, they nevertheless establish widely accepted ways of doing research and interacting with others. Researchers expect that their colleagues will adhere to and promote these standards. Those who violate these standards will lose the respect of their peers and may even destroy their careers.
Researchers have three sets of obligations that motivate their adherence to professional standards. First, researchers have an obligation to honor the trust that their colleagues place in them. Science is a cumulative enterprise in which new research builds on previous results. If research results are inaccurate, other researchers will waste time and resources trying to replicate or extend those results. Irresponsible actions can impede an entire field of research or send it in a wrong direction, and progress in that field may slow. Imbedded in this trust is a responsibility of researchers to mentor the next generation who will build their work on the current research discoveries.
Second, researchers have an obligation to themselves. Irresponsible conduct in research can make it impossible to achieve a goal, whether that goal is earning a degree, renewing a grant, achieving tenure, or maintaining a reputation as a productive and honest researcher. Adhering to professional standards builds personal integrity in a research career.
Third, because scientific results greatly influence society, researchers have an obligation to act in ways that serve the public. Some scientific results directly affect the health and well-being of individuals, as in the case of clinical trials or toxicological studies. Science also is used by policy makers and voters to make informed decisions on such pressing issues as climate change, stem cell research, and the mitigation of natural hazards. Taxpayer dollars fund the grants that support much research. And even when scientific results have no immediate applications—as when research reveals new information about the universe or the