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Ethics in Science: A Case Study

Through this case study I shall argue that Marc's course of action should be to include the anomalous results in his presentation. I shall argue this by evaluating the situation with the ethical principles of Consequentialism (most notably Utilitarianism), Kantian ethics and the categorical imperative as well as looking at Karl Popper's principle of falsification.

There are many factors that Marc must consider when confronting this dilemma. He is in a position where his perceived moral duties conflict with one another. For a start, he has a duty to his boss and to securing investment for the research. It is also possible that his last minute rush to perform the experiments was the result of his own incompetence and disorganization, in which case he may feel that he has to 'make up' for his inefficiency by doing as his boss asks. His supervisor is in a position of authority, and as such, Marc should accept his decision and abide by his rules. Seven out of ten results were identical, and that does seem to indicate that the three aberrations were simply a mistake due to a lack of time. And if Marc goes against his supervisor's wishes, he runs the risk of losing his position. Is being honest worth the personal consequences?

Following his duty is an important aspect of Marc's dilemma. As a lab technician, he presumably has a duty to science and the scientific method. Working by Karl Popper's principle of falsification, his results may show that the original hypothesis behind the experiments was, while being scientific, false. Although by this principle, nothing can be verified, at first glance it would appear that the hypothesis has been falsified by the three erroneous results. With a duty to the scientific method, he cannot simply ignore these results that disagree with the other seven. To do so would be to ignore the principles of scientific experiment that lead to progress and this would do a great disservice to not only, himself, his supervisor, the potential investors, the general public who may or may not benefit from the research, but to the practice of science itself.

Therefore, it seems that being dishonest and ignoring the aberrations would result in going against his duty to science and the scientific method, his moral duty to the venture capital people as rational beings and by virtue of this, he will certainly not maximize the good for all in the long run. By adhering to his supervisors wishes, he will go against several ethical principles as well as correct scientific practice. If every lab technician were to ignore slightly erroneous results when it did not suit their desires, then human civilization would not be able to progress as it has done and should continue to do. Therefore I would advise Marc to be as honest as possible when presenting to the venture capital people, to explain his results fully and the circumstances surrounding them, the fact that more tests would need to be carried out, and to remain positive about the potential benefits of the proposed research and experiments. Marc should also voice his doubts to his supervisor beforehand and explain what he thinks he should do. Although this may have awkward ramifications for Marc, the benefits of being clear about the tests should outweigh the personal friction.

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