ON THE DEONTOLOGY OF A SCIENTIFIC WORKER
Every professional group in society gradually evolves its own set of rules of conduct, running along two lines, the technical and the moral, which together add up to constitute the particular ethics or deontology of that profession. This professional ethics is directly connected with the honour and dignity of the profession, and the person who breaks the rules imposed by the professional code disgraces the honour of his profession; to safeguard that honour, there are special corporational and disciplinary bodies known as the Courts of Honour.
The rules of professional ethics are passed on consuetudinally along with the professional training, though sometimes they are also codified. In accordance with those rules, a particular ideal is formed, being the embodiment of professional perfection fulfilling all requirements of professional ethics and including, in the form professional duty, the highest technical dexterity. In periods of societal transformations and concommittant transvaluations the conventional system of deontology together with its standards of perfection may become repudiated, and changes in the deontology are generally accompanied by changes and shifts in the sphere of moral codes and customs on various planes of social life.
Is the present moment such a period of transition? In our search for an answer let us examine the standards of half a century ago, exemplified in the following two citations. One comes from a speech by Kazimierz Twardowski On the dignity of a University (1933), pp. 10-16; the other is a passage from Teobald Ziegler’s book, Uber Universitiiten und Universitiitstudium (1913), pp. 26-30. Twardowski stresses the independence of the scientific approach from any considerations that might tend to restrict it. Ziegler expounds and defends the principle of the freedom of the university instruction. Both writers emphasize the lofty character of education and of the scientific workers, as uniting humanity in a common endeavour toward a common goal. Comparing the standards exemplified in the above-quoted enunciations with the contemporary situation, we come to formulate same fundamental questions pertaining to the deontological principles of a scientific worker or educationalist: (a) What, if any, are the permissible compromises between the duty to obey scientific standards and the needs of everyday practical life? (b) Does the fact of being a scientific worker by itself impose an obligation to preserve same moral standards higher than the average?
Upon those two basic questions there follow same mare detailed problems relating to, (1) the scientific worker’s attitude to his particular science; (2) his relations with his co-workers and colleagues, both senior and junior, and the demands of comradeship, loyalty and goodwill in cases of conflict; (3) his approach to the students – necessity of a protective attitude and of scrupulous observance of a teacher’s duties; (4) his attitude to the society and the State.
Problems of professional ethics are in the focus of attention today, we find evidence of that in many public discussions. Writing the present article, therefore, I have a twofold object in view: firstly, I believe the subjects need to be thoroughly studied and discussed, and, secondly, I feel it would be of great use if the discussion led to same attempt to formulate a deontology of the scientific worker.
As point of departure for further considerations, I would propose the postulate of integrity, obligatory to workers in every sphere of work. In accordance with that postulate a scientific worker, be he a research worker or a teacher, is obliged to the standard that satisfies in every respect all the requirements of the scientific method, without any regard for any ulterior considerations. The postulate of integrity may provide deontological directions, though it is not only possible source of such directions. The scientific worker occupies a high position in society, and therefore the demands made on him must consequently be equally high.