We hold that science has a normative structure that arises from its methodological requirements regarding evidence, which gives rise to a set of ethical ideals that we call the “scientific virtues”. These include curiosity, veracity, perseverance, skepticism, courageous humility and so on. Although these are often not articulated explicitly, they provide a deep ethical core to scientific character. We propose to develop and pilot test a survey instrument that will allow us to collect information from a sample of 1000 scientific policy leaders (including members of national scientific societies, members of the National Academies of Science, winners of a Nobel Prize, leaders of major scientific research centers, etc.) about their views on science and virtue and their current thinking about the translation of these ethical virtues into research practices. The results of this survey will provide the first systematic picture of how these values are understood by leading scientists. This empirical assessment of their views about scientific character virtues and their development promises to provide a realistic basis for both theoretical and practical purposes, including helping to transform the teaching of responsible conduct of scientific research. It may also uncover a set of common values that science shares with religion, which may open new avenues for fruitful and respectful dialogue.
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