Do we need Berlin walls or chinese walls between research, public consultation, and advice? New public responsibilities for life scientists

Journal of Academic Ethics 1 (4):385-395 (2003)
Abstract
During the coming decades, life scientists will become involved more than ever in the public and private lives of patients and consumers, as health and food sciences shift from a collective approach towards individualization, from a curative to a preventive approach, and from being driven by desires rather than by technology. This means that the traditional relationships between the activities of life scientists – conducting research, advising industry, governments, and patients/consumers, consulting the public, and prescribing products, be it patents, drugs or food products, information, or advice – are getting blurred. Traditional concepts of the individual, role, task, and collective responsibility have to be revised. This paper argues, from a pragmatic point of view, that the concept of public responsibility can contribute considerably in delineating new gray zones between the various roles of the life scientist: conducting research for governments or industry, giving advice, prescribing and selling products, and doing public consultation. The main issues are where new Chinese walls (not Berlin walls) need to be built between these activities, thereby increasing trust between life scientists and the public at large, and how to organize research agendas and to decide upon research topics.
Keywords professional ethics  public debates on science  research ethics  role and public responsibility
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