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On February 4 and 5, 2011

Ethics and Responsibilities on the Agenda of the 2nd World Sciences and Democracy Forum

by Cécile Sabourin

The forum specifically featured the theme of the responsibility of scientists—professors and researchers. Four paths were suggested for the specific contribution of scientists. Discover them and let us know what you think …

The second World Sciences and Democracy Forum held last February 4 and 5 in Dakar specifically featured the theme of the responsibility of scientists—professors and researchers—on two occasions: during a round table and during a workshop that followed it.

Speakers at the round table “Research, Responsibility, and Democracy” were Hartmut Meyer (ENSSER, Germany), Jose Manoel Rodrigues Vitoriano (University of Valencia, Spain), Gilles Bibeau (University of Montreal, Quebec), Alain Garrigou (Researchers without borders, France), Innocent Butare (CRDI, West Africa). Its moderator was Vinod Raina (AIPSN, India).

The workshop, “Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Researchers: Obstacles and Challenges,” set up to encourage discussion was facilitated by Fabien Piasecki of the Fondation Sciences Citoyennes (France), Cécile Sabourin of the Quebec Sciences and Democracy Committee, FQPPU (Quebec), Marius Kenoté of the Institut des Sciences Biomédicales Appliquées (Benin).

These two occasions were an opportunity to express analyses, points of view, and proposals in the area of the ethics and responsibilities of scientific and academic circles. Special emphasis was placed on the conditions in Africa.

The round table focused on forward-looking points of view, the general analysis of the situation having already been made and shared on the whole at the first World Sciences and Democracy Forum (Belèm, 2009). [1] Expectations of the workshop were modest, aiming to open a discussion, share experiences, listen to one another, and collect a few proposals to enhance awareness that as scientists, we have enormous responsibilities in every field depending on our expertise but also as citizens. Finally, the discussion aimed to identify the objective conditions that would encourage and facilitate a freer and more considered exercise of our responsibilities.

Four paths for scientists to make their contribution

Four paths were suggested to respond to the essential question of the specific contribution of scientists. These were: 1) preparing scientists for the exercise of their functions as workers in the field of knowledge seen as a common good; 2) framing research, in particular applied research, which usually summons the contribution of people or seeks solutions to specific problems; 3) actions to be undertaken in order to promote and defend the freedom of research and of circulation as well to defend scientists submitted to direct threats and attacks; and 4) a proposal for an ethics of contradictory collaboration / cooperation, given the need to acknowledge differences in intentions and perspectives where science is concerned. In this context, consensus-seeking at all costs is less relevant than to clearly identify the principles to be defended as well as the positions that would gain from being fine tuned as a result of the confrontation of arguments.

The participants underscored that the democratization of knowledge and science is connected to shared responsibilities and that alliances are as essential as getting governments to implement proper and consistent behavior in this area.

If you wish to read a summary of the discussions on the responsibility os scientists at the Dakar event (available in French only), click on this link then on "Lire le rapport" at the end of the page (17-page document).

[1] See the declaration and information on the progress of the forum in the docubook (http://vecam.org/article1201.html; http://fmsd-quebec.org/sciences/dem... / (in French).

Published on: 17 August 2011
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