[DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in my posts are personal opinions, and they do not reflect the editorial policy of Social Psychological and Personality Science or its sponsoring associations, which are responsible for setting editorial policy for the journal.]
i've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a scientist. being a scientist comes with certain obligations, and ignoring those obligations can give science a bad name. it seems to me we could do more to make scientists aware of this responsibility when they decide whether or not to join the profession.
our most important obligation as scientists, to my mind, is preserving science's credibility. that doesn't mean we can't make mistakes, but above all else, we should be committed to opening ourselves up to scrutiny and correcting our errors.
to make these values a bit more concrete, i tried to adapt the hippocratic oath to scientists. you can tell how solemn this oath is by the use of capitalization.
the values i tried to capture were inspired by Merton's norms, but in the spirit of Merton's norm of universalism, i refrained from naming the oath after him (or anyone). it is very far from comprehensive, and i know it's cheesy, but i ask you, dear reader: if you can't engage in a little facile sentimentality on new year's day, when can you?
An Oath for Scientists
I swear that I will, according to my ability and judgment, protect the credibility of science by carrying out this oath and this indenture.
To make the grounds for my scientific claims transparent and available for others to scrutinize, to welcome that scrutiny and accept that others will be skeptical of my claims, to help others verify the soundness of my claims; to describe my methods in sufficient detail for others to repeat them, to not obstruct others' attempts to replicate my work; to report all evidence I know of for or against my claim, to not suppress evidence against my conclusions, to correct my past claims if I learn that they were wrong, to support the dissemination of evidence that disconfirms or contradicts my past claims.
I will hold myself and all other scientists to this oath, and I will not exempt any scientist because of her status or reputation. I will judge scientific claims based on the evidence, not the scientist making the claim. Neither will I hold any scientific claim or finding as sacred. Similarly, I will recognize as valuable the work of scientists who aim to correct errors in the scientific record.
In whatever claims I present in my role as scientist, I will not knowingly overstate or exaggerate the evidence, I will not make claims out of interest for advancing my own station, and I will disclose any personal interest that may be perceived as biasing my judgment. I will protect the credibility of my profession by making careful, transparent, calibrated claims.
Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all scientists for my work; but if I transgress it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me.