China's first proposal on science popularization ethics released

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A proposal on the popularization of scientific ethics was released on Thursday, providing advice to science advocates on how to discuss controversial scientific issues.

"Controversies arising during scientific and technological development should be handled rationally and different views should be treated on an equal basis. Science popularization workers need to inform the public about not only the possible benefits of scientific and technological progress but also the uncertainties, risks, and conflict of interests it may cause," the document states.

The proposal, the first of its kind in China, was jointly published by the Chinese Association of Natural Science Museums (CANSM), the China Science Writers Association (CSWA), the Chinese Society for Science and Technology Journalism, the National Academy of Innovation Strategy, and Beijing Guokr Interactive Technology Media Co. Ltd.

Zhou Zhonghe, chairperson of the CSWA and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that science popularization ethics, which can be considered as an extension of science ethics, is an important part of scientific and cultural progress. "Science popularization workers need to spread scientific knowledge and spirit to the public with a strong sense of social responsibility," Zhou said.

A survey conducted by Li Zhengfeng, deputy dean of the School of Social Sciences at Tsinghua University, highlighted the necessity of bringing forward such a proposal. According to results of the survey, more than half of the scientists surveyed are worried about suffering insult on account of publishing or backing controversial issues.

Li pointed out that a new challenge in science popularization is that scientists and science advocates often work with "science in progress" rather than "mature science." That often means that they're working with incomplete data as relevant experiments have yet to be completed and even when research has been published, it does not guarantee that the findings won't be overturned in the future.

Cheng Donghong, president of CANSM, called for science popularization workers to act on the proposal and formulate specific principles according to the conditions of their fields.

She hoped that the principles will develop into an indispensable part of China's science and technology ethics system and form a common ethical code for the entire science popularization community, thus contributing to the high-quality development of science popularization in the country.

Content in partnership with Science and Technology Daily

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