The Enlightenment of 17th century Europe was based on a new way of thinking. Enlightenment philosophers such as Bacon, Voltaire, Locke and others believed that their "natural philosophy" – what we now call science – was a powerful new tool that should be used for the betterment of the human condition and the alleviation of human suffering. And, indeed, science now does play a central role in our lives. Modern health care, agriculture, communications, transportation and most other aspects of our daily lives depend upon the fruits of scientific research. In these and other areas, science has fulfilled the Enlightenment's vision of making our lives better, easier, more productive, and more enjoyable, at least from certain perspectives.
Scientific research, therefore, has had and continues to have significant impact, of varying nature and magnitude, that extends throughout our society. Those who may be affected by this impact include individuals who might benefit or be harmed by the products of that research, researchers themselves (both those who do the work and also their colleagues), and those who provide financial support for the research, perhaps in the hope of reaping financial or other rewards in return. With so many "stakeholders" in the process, research must, therefore, be conducted with proper respect for the consequences of what it discovers, how it is conducted, and how it is reported.
Scientists who conduct research and to whom students turn for knowledge and to whom the public and its elected representatives turn for technical guidance must be prepared to accept these very important responsibilities with appropriate understanding of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior in the discharge of their professional duties. As a health sciences institution, our mission is not only to impart knowledge and technical skills on our students. It is equally our goal to develop in our students an appreciation and commitment to this kind of professionalism. This site focuses on some of the issues related to professional standards of conduct for scientists and to the responsible conduct of research.