Tuesday 28 October 2014

Research Ethics

Euthanasia, animal testing, biofuels, Milgram experiment... Although in physics we do not have the same ethical issues as in biology, medical science or psychology, there are quite a few situations a physicist encounters in his scientific life which require being careful, be it while processing data, publishing a paper or making public statements. This blog post itself has been ethics-checked with the utmost care and contains no plagiarism nor bear any kind of conflict of interest.

In the University of Oulu, all the doctoral students are required to take a Scientific Research and Ethics course during their PhD. For some of them, it is a topic they never dealt with before.


This course consists of a couple of general lectures introducing the concept of ethics from a philosophical point of view, followed by several field-specific lectures. This enables to treat differently the students in medicine or biology who may open people or animals to publish scientific papers, students in humanities who may make statistics from personal data to publish scientific papers and students in physics or mathematics who may publish scientific papers. Finally, a group work on a research-ethics-related topic and leading to a presentation during a seminar allows the students to think by themselves about what ethics involves, based on a concrete case.

And for those students who may fail this ethics course in this autumn term, another one will be held next spring. In Finnish. Lesson no. 1: don't mix it with vinegar.

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