Good afternoon everyone. My name is Jonathan Braun and I'm the President of Purdue University Student Pugwash. Welcome to the Purdue Pugwash Midwest Regional Conference, “The Integrity of Science in the 21st Century.” I'd like to welcome Dr. Martin Jishke. He has been the President of the University since 2000 and is transforming Indiana’s land grant institution into a preiminent university. Dr. Jishke and the Board of Trustees have developed a strategic plan that is making Purdue a more dynamic and powerful university. Under his leadership, Purdue is also leading efforts to bring about an economic resurgence for the state of Indiana. This university launched the largest fundraising campaign in the history of higher education in Indiana in the fall of 2002 that is designed to increase student scholarships and fellowships, attract and retain the best faculty, and provide funding for new programs, facilities, and equipment.
Martin Jishke was recently appointed to the President’s Counsel of Advisors on Science and Technology. His leadership extends to national and international higher education organizations, including his work as founding president of the Global Consortium of Higher Education and research of agriculture. He is chairman of the Association of American Universities, a consortium of the nation’s most distinguished higher education institutions. Prior to becoming Purdue’s 10th president, he was Chancellor of the University of Missouri – Rolla from 1986 to 1991. He served as the President of Iowa State University from 1991 to 2000. Please welcome the President of Purdue University, Dr. Martin Jishke.
Martin Jishke: Thank you very much and good afternoon to all of you. As President it is my considerable pleasure to welcome all of you to our campus. A very special welcome back to our keynote speaker, Dr. Arden Bement, who knows this campus well and is highly regarded and respected here by all.
This event is part of Purdue’s Student Pugwash Midwest Regional Conference, titled “The Integrity of Science in the 21st Century.” This is a very interesting, extremely important, and timely topic. One of our goals of this conference is to encourage discussion, particularly among students, about global issues and the role of ethics in research. This program is widely supported by Purdue’s schools, colleges, and programs. There is a campus-wide commitment to ethics. There are about 220 student members of the Purdue Pugwash chapter. It’s the largest student chapter in the United States.
For those not familiar with Student Pugwash USA, it is a national organization that promotes open discission on topics pertaining to science, technology, and ethics. It is the US student affiliate of the Pugwash conferences, which was founded in 1957 by the physicist Albert Einstein and the philosopher Bertrand Russell. It’s mission is to focus on the ethical considerations scientists face in their work. Purdue's Pugwash champter was founded in 1991. Pugwash received a Nobel peace prize in 1995 for its efforts to diminish nuclear arms in international politics and its recognition of the responsibility of scientists in creating such weapons.
Scientists and engineers impact all aspects of our lives. They design and build the roads, buildings, bridges, computers, and cars that are part of our daily existence. There are other implications as well. Neal Armstrong noted, "that when science and technology made it possible to transmit live television images across the globe, it also made it impossible for injustices to be hidden from the watching world."
The impact of science and technolgoy on our society will only grow stronger and ethics will remain utmost important.
Dr. Einstein once said, “Relativity applies to physics, not to ethics.”
In the history of Purdue, many very distinguished people have graced our campus. Today we are honored to have one of them here to speak with us. It is a special pleasure for me to introduce, both personally and as my role as President to introduce Dr. Arden Bement. He is on leave from Purdue while he serves as the twelfth director of the National Science Foundation. Dr. Bement previously served on the National Science Board, a 24 member body for NSF, and advisor to the President and Congress on science and engineering issues. Dr. Bement became director of NSF in November of 2004 and had been the acting director since February of 2004. He joined NSF from the National Institute for Standards and Technology, where he had been director since December of 2001. He is a distinguished public serviceman to our nation.
Before his appointment as misdirector, Dr. Bement served as the David A. Ross Distinguished Professor of Nuclear Engineering and the head of the School of Nuclear Engineering at Purdue. He has held appointments in the schools of Nuclear Engineering, Materials Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, as well as a courtesy appointment to the Krannert School of Management. He was director of the Midwast Superconductivity Consortium and the Consortium for the Intelligent Management of the Electrical Power Grid. Dr. Bement shared the commission for engineering and technical studies and the National Materials Advisory Board and the National Research Counsel. He served on the Space Station Utilization Advisory Subcommittee and the Comercialization of Technology Advisory Committee for NASA. He consulted for the Department of Energy’s Argon National Laboratory and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.
Dr. Bement joined Purdue in 1992 after a 39 year career in industry, government, and academia. His positions included Vice President for technical resources and of science and technology for TRW, Deputy under Secretary of Defense in research and engineering, Director of the Office of Material Science for Darpa, professor of Nuclear Materials at MIT, manager of the fuels and materials department and metallurgy research department of Patel Northwest Laboratories, and senior research associate of General Electric. He holds an Engineer of Metallurgy degree of the Colorado School of Mines, a Master’s Degree of Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Idaho, and a Doctoral Degree of Mettalurgical Engineering from the University of Michigan. He is a member of the United States National Academy of Engineering. We have been enormously proud of Dr. Bement for many years and are pleased at his amazing leadership skills and talents that are being used in the service of our nation and in the service of science.
Welcome Dr. Arden Bement.
Arden Bement: Thank you for that overly generous introduction. Welcome to all of you. It's great to be back on campus. I see Dr. Jishke periodically in Washington. I do keep up with what's going on here. You should know they're back in Washington pulling for the university.
Most importantly I want to thank Jonathon Braun and his team for putting this conference together and for Student Pugwash USA for your passion and effort in creating a vibrant, ethical emphastructure for science and engineering disciplines.
What made my time here especially memorable was the character and quality of the students, and their breadth of interest. It was an honor to teach and research with them and I do miss it.
Let's look at the future for a moment. As the 21st century gets under way, we know a few things for sure. First, the pace of discovery is settling into a predictable pattern. Second, our competition will come from a few global players. And third, the pressure on our research community to produce innovations will ease in the coming years. Happy April Fools Day.
At the dawn of the new millenium, we in the science and engineering community are faced with a broad array of challenges that could scarcely be imagined twenty years ago. The rapid pace of global innovation, including the speed of scientific discovery, will expand exponentially. For one thing, there are more runners in the global race. The speed and scope have changed in our society and disciplines. When it comes to research and development, the long term is getting shorter by the moment. Lead times from discovery to market grow shorter every day. What used to take 20 years is now being accomplished in 20 months or less.
As that time window shrinks, the pressure to develop the next killer application that would restabilize the marketplace also increases. Our economic competitors are most often our friends or our allies. That is, we find ourselves competing with our collaborators. They are a mouse click away from where we’re moving, and they’re aggressive to beat us at our own game. The US is not preordained to be the leader in every field of science and engineering.
The developing world is shrinking because the developed world is growing. As a result, the chance of being blindsighted from discoveries from around the world becomes greater. Today’s scientists face challenge on a 360 degree spectrum. Expecting competition to come from one direction is like driving down the super highway looking through a drinking straw. I don’t recommend it,
Such challenges have produced some of our greatest national triumphs. In our seemingly darkest hours, whether Civil War, two World Wards, or the Great Depression, we found a way to not only survive, but thrive. Our Yankee ingenuity has always kept us on the tireless hunt for that better mousetrap. We invented our best when we lean into the future rather than approach it from a defensive crouch.
We in the science and technology communitee must be willing, as Teddy Roossevelt put it, “To Dare Greatly, in looking towards the future.” It is the uncertainty about the future that continually tests our medal. Looking over this crowd, I am confident that we have the right stuff represented here to meet our future challenges.
In the coming years, you will have some remarkable tools at your disposal. The breadth and depth of cyber infrastructure will continue to allow researchers to collaborate with one another in new and exciting ways. At the National Science Foundation, we continue to fund frontier research in cyber infrastructure that will lead to computing at the petascale. This will have significant positive impacts on your work. You will be able to assess increasingly large complex databases. Transformational breakthroughs in fields such as nanotechnology will have ramifications in all fields of science and engineering as we research and develop materials and systems with revolutionary properties and capabilities.
At the National Science Foundation, we estimate that by 2015 nanotechnology will employ 1.5 million people worldwide. Half of those jobs are projected to be in the US. It is gratifying to know that even in an ostier federal funding environment, funding for the physical sciences and engineering is being made a national priority through the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative.
Policy makers, leaders of industry, and the general public are recognizing the accute nead to provide the science and technology disciplines with the resources and training necessary to keep our nation’s future bright. The American taxpayer is going to be giving our various disciplines much in the way of resources over the coming years.
We need to prove our trustworthyness at ever turn at being excellent stewards of the public’s trust. Recent polling data suggests that the public believes in our reputation and our work. In a recent survey, 68% said they had high to complete confidence in the sceinctific community. That's more confidence than they have in religious institutions, corporations, the US Congress, and the US Supreme Court. 99% said it was very or somewhat important to educate and train scientific researchers. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
So is that the end of the story? Do we in the fields of science and engineering get to ride of into the sunset with our saddlebags filled with trust and treasure? Hardly. I am reminded of the words of JFK when he said, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
The public holds us in high regard, but they also believe that when tempted, researchers will be willing to alter their data or conclusions to support their own personal interests.
Yes, the public supports our overall mission. But they will closely scrutinize our actions as they surrender more taxmoney to us, as is appropriate. We must never forget that trust is a delicate thing. All of us should be dedicated to ethical conduct in our work. We must always have the courage to take a hard look at our pedigodgies, our methods, and our peer groups, to ensure that they are beyond reproach.
The careless acts of even one scientist can send shockwaves through an entire discipline. Recently you saw the effect of one duplicitist researcher in South Korea on the entire field of study.
We might imagine that this is the case of a few bad apples. However, there are a few disturbing trends in the arena of science ethics that suggest a far deeper problem.
A recent survey of over 3200 early or mid-career US scientists reveales that more than 1/3 of respondants admitted reserach wrongdoing over the survey period of three years from 2002 to 2005. These included plagiarism, failure to present contradictory data, changing methodology or results in response to pressure from a funding source, and blatently cooking the data.
This past year the Federal Office of Research Integrity and the Department of Health and Human Services received nearly 300 alegations of research wrongdoing, double the number from 2003. The National Science Foundation finds the number of investigations of research misconduct are increasing year by year.
Some of the reasons given for these ethical lapses are mental illness, the unffamiliarity of foreign nationals with American research ethics, the pressure of “publish or perish,” and the dirth of ethics training in graduate school programs. Whatever the reason, I can tell you that research malfeasanses is on the rise.
Unless we take concrete steps to address and reversise this trend within our own ranks, we risk loosing every ounce of public goodwill and resources. For our own personal integrity and the continued prosperity of our nation, we cannot afford to perpetrate such practices or condone them in others. We must begin the heavy lifting of research ethics reform. Dr. Glen McGee, Director of the Albany Medical Colleges, Alden Marsh Bioethics Institute, recently said, "the teaching of reserach ethics is today where the teaching of medical ethics was in the 1950s. We are worse at training scientists in research ethics than we are in any other form of ethics training in any other field.” Such bracing words should serve as a call for action from every member of the scienctific community.
At NSF, we believe it is not enough to be knowledgable about the problem. The key is to move from commitment to involvement by senior faculty members and by administrative leaders. It is important to develop an institute abroad, and have clear-cut training programs across all disciplines and institutions. There can be no shades of gray in research practice. You either follow the rules or you've been dishonest.
Just this past month, the Council of Graduate Schools received an NSF grant that will allow eight of its member institutions to develop interdisciplinary research ethics programs for graduate students in science and engineering. The project will involve graduate school deans, faculty, and students from a variety of disciplines including philosophy, history, and sociology as well as the sciences. The goal is to equip the graduate researcher with a set of rubust ethics practices to carry forward into the field.
At NSF, 70% of our budged is dissiminated to our principle investigators. We expect nothing but the most ethical and professional conduct. If a PI engages in questionable ethical behavior, he or she can be banned from receiving future grants. Unfortunately we’ve had to impose that this past year. We further insist that our scientist publish all of their results in open-source literature. Transparency is a key element in safeguarding ethical behavior.
Our investigators are also carefully instructed that when they represent data to the public, they are doing so as citizens, not as a spokesperson for the NSF. Recently one of the principal investigators on one of the flood projects in New Orleans was quoted as saying he had oversite and authority to speak on on behalf of NSF. He had neither. This was a case of a PI falsly assuming the mantle of our agency and it appears his primary motive was to make a name for himself. Senator Pat Moynihan sayd, “You are entitled to your opinions but not to your facts." His words remind us that we have to resist the temptation to fudge the data or pound that square peg of data into the round hole of our opinions.
The scientific method is the honest scientist’s true north. As you know, following the scientific method can be madenning and arduous. But any scientist must be willing to allow his or her reserach methods or conclusions to be fully and honestly judged by the whole scientific community. We must continue that tradition of excellence. It is important that the data provided to society and decision makers is of the highest quality. The cunundrom of research is always that fields keep expanding and advancing. Down the road, new data can change the perspective of old data.
As science advances it provides more questions than answers. That is never an excuse for easy ethics in the place of strict ethics. We must never fear being wrong in our research conclusions. We must fear doing wrong. The temptations and pressures are great, as are the ramifications. I applaud groups like Student Pugwash. Your focus and dedication are admirable. It is my hope that your engagement in the future matches that of the present.
Each of you in Student Pugwash USA agree to a student’s pledge when you join. One of the lines states, “I will consider the ethical implications of my work before I take action.” I would also ask you to flip that around and say "I will consider the ethical implications of my actions before I accept work."
I firmly believe that social responsibility begins and ends with the scientist. The last sentence of your student pledge is right on the money, “While the demands placed upon me may be great, I sign this declaration because I recognize that individual responsibility is the first step on the path to peace.”
I noted in the booklet issued for this conference, under the appendix of related articles, there's a statement by Sir Joseph Rotblat, Nobel Laureate in Peace in 1995, which talked about establishing a hypocratic oath for scientists.
There was a conference in Warsaw in 2003, and this is a great source on ethics. Right at the beginning of this book there's an article entited "A Hypocractic Oath for scienctists,” again written by Sir Joseph Rotblat. This was published in Science volume 286 in 1999, four years after he received the Nobel Prize. He goes on to state, "Various formulations of oaths have been proposed.” He’s referring to the hypocratic oath. “And There’s a considerable literature on this. There is no need for a single formulation, however. I like the pledge initiated by the Student Pugwash group in the United States, which has already been signed by thousands of students from many countries. That has now been adopted by the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Committee on Ethics in Science."
So thank you for your time and for inviting me to share these moments with you. I will answer any questions if I can.
Student: You mentioned there were some pretty steep ethical penalties for unethical research that occur under the NSF's fundraisingg. What are some ways that NSF goes about determining if the science is fraudulent?
Arden Bement: We have an office within the National Science Foundation called the “Office of the Inspector General" and they love to do investigations. They even have software to detect plagiarism on proposals. So the first step is to investigate and they will make their findings because the grant doesn’t go to the PI, it goes to the institution or the university. That investigation is conducted at a fairly high level within the institution to do the fact finding. If the investigation shows there has been malfeasance then we’ll get a recommendation from the Inspector General’s office to take appropriate action depending on the nature of the infraction. It could be a reprimand or it can be a withdrawal of future grants at the other extreme. It could affect a faculty member’s career.
Student: Some years ago a huge change was made in Congress when we were doing the human genome project. At that time, Congress decided that 10% of the grant would go to look at the ethical issues in that process. A similar thing has been done in the nanotechnology area. Has the NSF given any thought about requiring some of the funding of centers to look at the ethical issues?
Arden Bement: Yes. In our nanotechnology program we have set aside 60% of the total budget to look at health, environmental, and societal impacts as well as ethical issues. We have at least one center and possibly two. The one center that I visited just a few weeks ago is in Columbia, South Carolina at the University of South Carolina. They have a center – interdisciplinary - involving sociologist, philosophers, as well as scientists to deal with the issues of ethics in nanotechnology. It's better to get a handle on it and figure out what the issues are and do public outreach before it gets out of hand.
Student: I'd like to ask about the ethical implications for the person working next to the potential ethical violator. The person who isn't doing anything unethical him or herself, but who may come across some indication that someone else is. Do you think the laws in the United States for whistle blowers are sufficient to deal with this in the laboratories? Like there are significant incentives and protections for doing it and protection but also disincentives against wrongful acusations. Second, and more important, do you think that there’s an issue with science internationally, that there is sufficient protection transnationally or do you think that there’s work that needs to be done to encourage scientists detecting unethical work in other scientists?
Arden Bement: Between you and me, a legislative action isn't the best way to go. It should be administrative actions within the institution itself. They should set the standards and policies and they should set the procedures for dealing with these matters in the most effective way. If necessary they could establish an independent committee or independent investigative body, which might include members outside of the institution, in order to get full objectivity and lack of bias. If you go the legal route, there are too many balance points. In many cases it neutralizes the effectiveness of the necessary action. I've found whether it's copywrite law, or plagiarism, it's difficult to do it from a legal point of view. It’s much more effective to deal with from an administrative point of view.
Student: I know you mentioned some of the reasons for possible unethical practices might be foreign nationals' failure to know US policies. Because we are becoming more of a global research community, is there a movement towards making a global standard that everyone can come to terms with, drawn not just from our country’s policies but gaining wisdom from other countries as well?
Arden Bement: Yes, there is various action on that among the various science academies around the world. They have banded together and formed an overreaching organization that meets periodically to discuss these issues. At a national level, through the various academies, focusing attention on this and developing best practices and tandards is vitally important. It still remains for the institutions to provide adequate training for graduate and internation undergraduate students since research is beginning to become conducted at the undergraduate level as well, to learn about ethical practices. There are treatises and past academy studiess that could be disiminated and would be useful to help international students understand our norms in this country.
Student: You talked about the direction of science and technology in the future. I know a lot of Americans are concerned with the decreasing interest in hard technical skills. I've learned one way to stay on top of this is through innovation and entrepreneurship. What are your thoughts on that?
Arden Bement: First of all, it's true. Secondly, it doesn't exist only in the US. I was in a UNESCO meeting this past year in Paris, and there were 72 nations represented. Across the board they all had the same problem, whether they are a fully industrialized or a developing nation, and that is the decrease in interest. In the United States it's actually turning the corner a bit, as enrollments in engineering have gone up. We have to take this seriously. Every nation is trying to increase their R&D intensity because they see what drives our economy. They see the investments in education, research and development, and infrastructure. China and India are making massive investments into new universities and putting more resources into education. Every nation wants to get up to 3% of GDP in R&D investment. We're about 2.67 percent. We’re exceeded only by Japan, which is about 3.5 percent, and some Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
The reality is that if Europe alone were to get to 3% they would have a demand for 750 thousand additional scientists and engineers just to do the research. China wants to get up to 3% in the next 5 years. You can imagine how many scientists and engineers that would take to get from 1 to 3 percent. The trade in brainpower is going to supplant the trade in goods and survices as well as raw materials.
Almost every nation is going to develop strategies to become a brain gain nation because that's where the future is. That means we have to pay attention and do a better job in science and engineering, especially if we want to get more women and underrepresented minorities to give them an understanding of why science and engineering is socially relevent. Social relevance is very important for these groups. We've got to start earlier.
To give you an example, I was in Greenville, South Caroline awhile ago and I went to an elementary school and visited a 5th grade class. There were 26 students, mostly students of color. This school has now achieved over 80% proficiency in math, science, and reading at the fifth grade level. That's incredible. The science advisor or specialist didn’t have a stem degree in science or engineering, but she was charasmatic, interesting, and dedicated. She had the good sense to bring in a program from the Society of Automotive Engineers in her class to design and build a car. The propulsion system was a balloon with different sized nozzles. They had to learn about friction, wheel alignment, and aerodynamic drag because some of these were very high aspect-ratio cars. They had to learn how to optimize propulsion system depending on in orifice size of the balloon vent. They had to build the car from renewable materials – no new materials were allowed. They had to measure velocity and distance traveled in the metric system. They had to develop teamwork skills.
I was there during the runoff competition and it was fun. They were having a wonderful time. The questions they asked me at the end of the competition were spectacular. At the begin of the course, the teacher asked them to draw their conception of an engineer. They draw a locomotion engineer or a building custodian. Those were the two types of engineers that they knew anything about. At the end of the course she asked them to draw an engineer again. They didn’t draw a person. They drew an airplane, computer, cell phone. The artifacts that engineers design and manufacture. That was a mind bending experience for that class. I asked the class who wants to be engineers and they all raised their hands.
That may sound a little hokey, but it works. Those children are going to remember that experience. That's what we're going to have to do to get more enthusiasm with the social relevance, national need, and understanding of what engineering is all about. We don't do a good job at the freshman enineering level either.
Student: Transparency is important, but we live in a world of global competition. Other countries with their own agendas are competing against us. In particular, when something is discovered that can be used for good or for bad, how do we balance transparency with the need for secrecy?
Arden Bement: There will always be a need for secrecy. The reason is, we have very complex supply chains. Most global corporations are not going to gain the trust of their supplier unless they can first demonstrate that they can protect their proprietary information. Almost everything now is being done as a partnership so the partners have to trust the relationship.
I was at the BMW plant in Greenville, South Carolina. The front part of the plant is gorgeous, and it houses a lot of the marketing people and some of the engineers. But when you get down in the basement, every room is compartmentalized and shielded. There is no cell phone traffic in and out of the room. You can't get into the room unless you have the right code. It’s based on need-to-know whether you can get into one room or another. That's where the engineering and development work is being done between BMW and their suppliers. Engineers may never meet one another down in the basement. Only upstairs.
Let me touch base with another issue. This has to do with ethics and the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” It has to do with American countries that have operations in China. I talked with the CEO of Dow Corning. They have a major operation in China. Just last month they had to dismiss two Chinese engineers who were downloading data from their computers and walking away with it and providing it to competitors. That's going on left and right. It's a balance of how far can you trust operations in other countries and how do you get the loyalty of your workforce. It's a learning experience.
Student: Part of what's driving ethical problems and falsifying data is clearly that it's better to establish a career by confirming a sexy hypothesis than saying coming up with data that says it’s not right. There’s sort of no way around that, but do you think science could do something to honor and recognize negative results and publish them and not have as much of a “winner takes all” if you verify a sexy hypothesis?
Arden Bement: That's a superb question. We do it better in this country than almost any other country in the world. In this country it's alright to fail, especially in science. In many others, failure is stigmatic. A scientist would do all that they could possibly do not to fail. It's important that you not stop with demonstrating hypothesis. You have to validate your experimental methods and observations and you have to be willing to have those results replicicable by other members of the community. You have to get beyond hypothesis.
Student: You brought the notion of a hypocratic oath or some equivalent for scientists. How far would you want to take that idea to endorse it? Medical doctors can be essentually kicked out of their field if they violate those ethics. We have nothing of that kind for research scientists. They can not receive NSF funding anymore, but by no means are they unemployed. Is there a way we can take those ideas or is that too much?
Arden Bement: It needs to become a living credo. It's not just taking the oath, it's living the oath to the best of your ability. It's taking the responsbity to be sure that those in your peer group learn and understand the oath. Now, I'm not an ethicist. Ethics is complex and there are some fields moving very rapidly so the norms of good practice and ethical behavior are not well established. In the case of bioethics, it's the difference between the concept of the individual and the concept of the person. Biology has a way of defining the individual, but it doesn't have the concept of a person. That falls into philosophy. And there aren’t many philosophers that would agree on the definiton of the person. This is an evolving field were ethisists and scientists have to work closely together as they go forward. It's often a balance between two positive aspects. In some cases it's a balance between good on one side and truth on the other. The medical profession has to deal with this all the time. A patient may ask if they have a terminal disease and to tell them the truth. A doctor has to decide if it would shorten their life and take out their spark if I tell them. Who am I to claim that what I would say is the real truth? It’s a balance. That’s why ethics is so complex and why the scientific community has to engage with those dealing with these complex poblems.
Student: I've had experience with discussing science and technology with both leaders of industry and leaders in academics. They seem to get the same idea that engineers need to develop more soft skills. These are the skills of communicating their ideas with the public and among each other and work together in an interdisciplinary fashion. There isn't much room in our curriculum so how do you suggest we get these skills?
Arden Bement: The soft skills are getting harder all the time. If you talk to your recruiter who is the head of an engineering department and ask him for a list of what they're looking for, those attributes might be much different than that of the CEO of the company. His list of success criteria may deal more with interpersonal skills or engagment skills. Decision making at that level takes much more than the analytical skills that engineers get as part of their training. While it’s important to get as much as you can, don't assume you're going to get all you're going to need in four or five years. This is a lifetime pursuit. Recognize that language and communication skills are important. Interdisciplinary skills are important. You have to be willing to commit to that kind of engagement. I'm still trying to learn! I could still learn a lot more.
Student: In the context of who should do science, I like your views in regard to the controversy of stem cell research. What about limitations of the United States’ nuclear research efforts, and limiting nuclear research in Iran?
Arden Bement: When I was at MIT I taught nuclear engineering to Iranian students. There are international laws and norms. Iran at the present time isn't living up to their obligations under international law and I think that's the overriding consideration.
Student: Recently here have recently been media reports regarding the interaction between government and science. I guess the question is, are you willing to say anything about the role of government or politics and it's ethical responsibility and its relationship with science and scientists?
Arden Bement: The role of the scientist is to provide the best understanding information based on the science. The use of that information in terms of deciding what is the overall good in terms of our elected officials has to go beyond that and needs to involve morality and norms. There are a whole range of considerations most scientists are not really competent in.
Let me take two examples. There has been a lot of controversy about selecting people in advisory committess for the government. I will start by saying service on an advisory committee is not a badge of senior citizenship. It is to provide objective, unbiased advice. When scientists compromise their objectivity by backing a candidate or a particular issue, they've already indicated what their position is so they don't need to be on a committee. Their position is already understood. So the criteria we use in selecting people for advisory committees has nothing to do with political parties. It has to do with conflict of interest. It has to do with balance in the field of study, geographic location, and women and underrepresented minorities. Those are the issues. The National Science Foundation probably has more advisory committees than almost any other agency in the goverment. I can't think of an instance where just membership in a party was a consideration at all. In fact, Jack Marburger, the President’s own science advisor, is a registered democrat. What is important is objectivity and the ability to give unbaisd advice.
The other thing I touched on in may talk, is if you are a scientist working in a federal agency there's a big difference in the freedom to speak for yourself versus speaking for the agency. It's absolutely encumbant on the individual to caviat their remarks intially by saying they are speaking for himself. Otherwise it's assumed, because of their membership or employment with the agency, that they're speaking for the agency. If they have cleared it was the agency to speak for the agency, then there’s no problem. If they assume they are speaking for the agency and have not established that, then problems occur.
Those are two of the biggest issues that are often misunderstood by members of the public and science community at large, and the fine line people have to walk in Washington when they are representing the public.
I think that's all the time we have for questions. Let's thank Dr. Arden Bement.
We will take a half hour break. Our next event is at 3:00.