Young peoplePeople all over the globe have taken to the streets to demand that decision-makers at COP26 be listened to listen to the science. If science is to live up these expectations, it will require a fundamental rethinking in light of climate and ecological crises of research ethics.
Researchers face new ethical dilemmas due to the ongoing planetary crisis. The three main principles of research ethics – do no harm, integrity, and responsibility – remain relevant to avoid wrongdoing. These were not intended to be used in an emergency. in response to scandals in biomedical research, and could therefore not anticipate these new challenges.
We propose a shift from a negative ethics that focuses on avoiding harm to one that promotes positive research ethics. These new ethics will guide the global scientific community with respect to civil society and politics during climate and ecological crises.
Do no harm
According to the “do no harm” imperative, researchers have a responsibility to avoid hurting humans or animals directly involved in their research. But what does “do no harm” mean in the midst of climate and ecological crises?
A growing number of scientists are questioning the carbon footprint associated with academic activities. flying to conferencesTo developing artificial intelligence. Research’s unpredictable and long-term consequences have also been brought back to the forefront. The debate about the high risksOf geoengineering.
The “do no harm” principle should thus be broadened in two ways:
- It should include humans, animals, and ecosystems that are not traditionally considered part of the research process but could be adversely affected by it.
- It should be able to account for the long-term, indirect, or unintended effects of research projects or new technology.
But, to prevent the climate crisis, society must be transformed completely within ten years, is it enough for research to “do no harm”? Inspiration by post-colonial approaches to research ethicsWe recommend moving beyond this negative principle to a positive, regenerative science.
This science would actively support the project of regenerating society and ecosystems. It would be motivated through an analysis of the suffering that is already taking place, and acknowledge historical responsibilities as well as power relations.
Integrity is key
Integrity requires that researchers follow strict protocols, disclose conflicts of interests, avoid manipulating data, and abstain form plagiarism. But science cannot be rigorous if they ignore environmental variables.
Some disciplines ignore the IPCC reports’ predictions, as well as indicators of mass extinction or ecosystem collapse. They also fail to reflect the realities of the complex and delicate interconnectionPractical recommendations that address the relationship between nature and humanity.
Mainstream economics, for instance, focuses heavily upon GDP growth and portrays our planet as a resource that can be used or exploited. Geoengineering hinges on a clear understanding of life support systems as a series of disconnected pieces that can be engineered.
Ultimately, “integrity means wholeness”. It means that we must acknowledge that we are all part of a fragile, interconnected web of life.
Researchers should therefore consider ecological dimensions when analyzing data. Researchers should also examine the concept of the humanity-nature relationship implicitly underpinning their work.
According to the “responsibility” principle, research should be relevant to society and communicated to the public. But in a climate crisis, findings can be so dramatic, their implications for society so huge and controversial, that the word “responsibility” takes a new, heavier meaning.
Some scientists are afraid to speak out in this situation, as they fear being biased. They have a tendency to remain silent. fail to influence the public debate.
Others may feel compelled to adapt their research for political purposes. An example is the inclusion of unrealistic amounts of “negative carbon emissions” in climate models to satisfy policymakers. This was criticisedFor providing a scientific cover-up of climate inaction.
Other researchers also suggest that focusing mainly on technological innovationCan solve the ecological crises. It’s a discourse that delays action by decreasing the sense of emergencyThese crises must be addressed.
The “responsibility” principle should therefore be enriched in three ways:
- Scientists should be able to take their findings seriously and speak up for the societal implications of their findings, even if it is uncomfortable.
- Researchers should defend the scientific process itselfFrom the influenceOf political and economic interests
- Scientists should be humble about what science can accomplish. This means accepting the limits of our knowledge in a complex world. It also means accepting the slow pace. unpredictable consequences of technological development.
From words to deeds
These research ethics need to be further developed. These can be used to develop global guidelines not only for researchers but also for funding agencies, governments, and universities.
Any solution to climate and ecological crises will require academic research. It is more than just the adoption of sustainability plans that universities must accept responsibility for facing existential threats.
Alexandre Wadih RaffoulDr. Candidate, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies Uppsala University? David Fopp, Senior Lecturer, Department of Child and Youth Studies Stockholm University? Emma Elfversson– Post-doctoral Researcher at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research Uppsala University? Helen AveryResearcher, Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies and Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC), Lund University, Ryan Carolan, PhD Candidate Swinburne University of Technology