Ethical norms of science communication: Challenges and prospects

Svet­lana V. Shibarshi­na
Lobachevsky State Uni­ver­si­ty of Nizh­ni Nov­gorod

Eth­i­cal norms of sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tion: Chal­lenges and prospects

Abstract. This arti­cle stud­ies the major trends and prob-lems in the ethics of exter­nal sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ca­tion (sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tion), which cur­rent­ly pos­sess­es no spe­cif­ic and gen­er­al­ly accept­ed code of eth­i­cal stan­dards. This is par­tial­ly due to the fact that the notion of ‘sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tion’ refers to a quite inter­dis­ci­pli­nary field of aca­d­e­m­ic research, and also to a num­ber of relat­ed pro­fes­sion­al prac­tices. The first part of the arti­cle focus­es on how the nor­ma­tive sci­en­tif­ic ethos relates to sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The sec­ond part con­sid­ers the prob­lem of epis­temic trust and some pos­si­ble ways to solve it (epis­temic divi­sion of labor vs. epis­temic equal­i­ty and equal respect). The third part stud­ies the intri­ca­cies emerg­ing from apply­ing any eth­i­cal prin­ci­ple pre­scribed to sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tion and demon­strates the pres­ence of ambiva­lence (the con­cept of R. Mer­ton) in the choice between the eth­i­cal imper­a­tives. Fur­ther­more, the author shows that the rel­e­vance of any prin­ci­ple for each case depends on the audi­ence and the aims of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In describ­ing and eval­u­at­ing these issues, the author relies on the works by Robert Keo­hane and his col­leagues, as well as by Stephen John.

Key­words: sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ethics, epis­temic trust, social con­tract for sci­ence, epis­temic equal­i­ty

DOI: 10.5840/dspl20192344


  1. Bar­ber, B. Sci­ence and the Social Order. Glen­coe, Illi­nois: The Free Press Publ., 1952. 288 pp.
  2. Fursov, K. Zachem nuzh­ny i o chem govo­riat oprosy obshch­estvenno­go mneni­ia o nauke i tekhnologi­iakh? [Why Do We Need Pub­lic Opin­ion Sur­veys about Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy and What Do They Tell Us?], in: For­mu­la nauchno­go PR 3.0. [For­mu­la of Sci­en­tif­ic PR 3.0.]: Col­lec­tion of Best Prac­tices in the Field of Sci­ence Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Saint Peters­burg: Uni­ver­sitet ITMO Publ., 2017, pp. 22–24. (In Russ­ian)
  3. Gus­ton, D.H. Social Con­tract for Sci­ence, in: Mitcham, C. (ed.), Ency­clo­pe­dia of Sci­ence, Tech­nol­o­gy, and Ethics. Detroit: Macmil­lan Ref­er­ence USA, 2005. Avail­able at: (accessed in August 7, 2019).
  4. John, S. Epis­temic Trust and the Ethics of Sci­ence Com­mu­ni­ca­tion: Against Trans­paren­cy, Open­ness, Sin­cer­i­ty and Hon­esty, Social Epis­te­mol­o­gy, 2018, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 75–87. DOI: 10.1080/02691728.2017.1410864.
  5. Keo­hane, R.O., Lane, M., Oppen­heimer, M. The Ethics of Sci­en­tif­ic Com­mu­ni­ca­tion under Uncer­tain­ty, Pol­i­tics, Phi­los­o­phy & Eco­nom­ics, 2014, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 343–368. DOI: 10.1177/1470594X14538570.
  6. Kitch­er, P. Sci­ence in a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Soci­ety. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2011. 270 pp.
  7. Kus­liy, P.S. Is Sci­ence Epis­tem­i­cal­ly Autonomous? An Overview of Some Con­tem­po­rary Dis­cus­sions, Epis­te­mologiya i filosofiya nau­ki / Epis­te­mol­o­gy & Phi­los­o­phy of Sci­ence, 2019, vol. 56, no. 1, pp.116–132. DOI: 10.5840/eps201956111. (In Russ­ian)
  8. Kuo, Y.-C., Chan, S.-J. In Dia­logue with Science’s Social Con­tract with Soci­ety, Asian Edu­ca­tion and Devel­op­ment Stud­ies, 2018, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 127–143. DOI: 10.1108/aeds-09–2017-0094.
  9. Med­vecky, F., Leach, J. The Ethics of Sci­ence Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Jour­nal of Sci­ence Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, 2017, vol. 16, no. 4. Avail­able at: (accessed on August 7, 2019).
  10. Mer­ton, R.K. The Ambiva­lence of Sci­en­tists, in: Kaplan, N. (ed.), Sci­ence and Soci­ety. Chica­go: Rand McNal­ly, 1965, pp. 112–132.
  11. Mer­ton, R.K. The Insti­tu­tion­al Imper­a­tives of Sci­ence, in: Barnes, B. Soci­ol­o­gy of Sci­ence. Lon­don: Pen­guin Books, 1972, pp. 65–79.
  12. O’Neill, O. Auton­o­my and Trust in Bioethics. Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2002. 213 pp.
  13. Priest, S.H. Com­ing of Age in the Acad­e­my? The Sta­tus of Our Emerg­ing Field, Jour­nal of Sci­ence Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, 2010, vol. 9, no. 3. C06. Avail­able at: (accessed on August 12, 2019)

Comments are closed.