What is an Ethical Chemist?

Prof. Jeffrey Kovac ’70 (Chemistry, U. Tennessee) is an internationally recognized scholar of ethics in chemistry. Earlier this fall the Swiss Academy of Sciences invited him to give the inaugural SCNAT Ethics Lecture on “What is an Ethical Chemist?” at 6 Swiss universities. A high-quality video was made of the lecture (45 min) and the discussion (45 min) that followed at ETH-Zurich, and the video can be viewed here (Creative Commons copyright). The text of the lecture will appear in the journal Chimia in January. Here is the abstract:

Almost all decisions made by chemists, and all other scientists, in their professional lives have an ethical dimension.  In both the practice of chemistry and the education of students it is essential that chemists understand the moral complexity of real-world situations, apply the relevant moral standards, and have the moral courage to make difficult choices, or the foundation of trust essential to the scientific enterprise will erode.  In this presentation I will develop the fundamental concepts of scientific ethics and show how they apply to both the practice of chemistry and the relationship between chemistry and society.  I will consider both day-to-day ethical problems such as authorship and the treatment of data and larger questions such as the choice of research problems and the social responsibility of scientists.

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