Jun 2010

Applying the Stem Cell Charter: We’re all responsible

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Charter Principle #1: We have a “Responsibility to maintain the highest level of scientific quality, safety and ethical probity.”

Science is a social activity. Scientists work in teams to make discoveries; interact with the government, community leaders and business people to get funding; and publish papers and talk to journalists to make sure the world knows about what they’re doing. They work with doctors to move their work from the lab to the clinic, and with students to teach them how science works. Ultimately, scientists interact with us all, and are responsible to society for everything they do.

This means that safeguarding public trust and maintaining society’s confidence in their research is vital. Without it, scientists would not be able to do what they do. At least not for very long.

Scientific responsibility means that scientists should perform their work with competence, integrity and to the best of their abilities. It means that they should adhere to the highest ethical and scientific standards. In a field that is developing quickly, such as stem cell science, which holds lots of potential and hope, it is extremely important not to mislead by overpromising or jumping to conclusions, and especially not to withhold information.

And while scientists are responsible to society, it’s also important to remember that the relationship is not one-sided. We, as members of the public and the collective recipients of scientists’ work, are equally responsible. We need to support science by being informed and engaged.  This is the precise reason the Stem Cell Charter exists, it’s a way for all of us to fulfill our responsibility and make sure we’re all working together to move stem cell science forward responsibly.

Rosario Isasi is a Research Associate at the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University. Her hobbies include bioethics, bioethics and bioethics. (And stem cells and policy.)

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