The 30th ICSU General Assembly concluded yesterday in Rome, with members reaffirming their commitment to science. The International Council for Science (ICSU), a global membership of international scientific bodies and international scientific unions, whose key mission is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society, has amended an existing statute on scientific freedom to include an obligation on scientists to display integrity in their work, be transparent, and recognise the possible harms of what they do.
“The balance between scientific freedom and responsibility is not always easy to get right, but awareness of its significance and of the value of ongoing dialogue must be maintained within the scientific community.” says Bengt Gustafsson, Chair of ICSU’s Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS). “By extending its consideration of the long-established Principle of the Universality to explicitly include responsibilities as well as freedoms, ICSU has emphasized that this balance is critical both for science and society.”
As more and more of the science we do bleeds more and more into everyday life, policy and politics — science should not shy away from partaking in the debate. Scientific freedom is important and comes with the acknowledgement of responsibility of actions. I am under the impression that most scientists can envision the consequences of their research. But most likely very few can navigate the turbulent waters that exist once their science gets outside the ivory tower. Perhaps, taking charge is the answer. With scientists at the head of the ship, steering the debate, can the science be the solution to society’s problems.