A number of economists insist that ethics has no role in economics, at least not in positive economics. Periodically, we have to keep relearning that internal ethics are the foundation on which trust in science is built.
Knowing this, it was still a shock to read this in the Aug 28th Economist Magazine:
Marc Hauser, a professor of psychology at Harvard who made his name probing the evolutionary origins of morality, is suspected of having committed the closest thing academia has to a deadly sin: cheating.
The article is unclear about what Hauser is accused of, but falsifying data is one likely charge.
There aren’t enough journal referees out there with the time to monitor every would-be academic cheater. And on a benefit-cost basis the risk of cheating may look quite good for someone trying to get tenure—a lifetime sinecure!
That is why having a non-consequentialist ethical framework at work in science is so critically important. We are better served by researchers who ascribe to a higher duty to the profession and truth-telling than to their own career outcomes.
Even so, when was the last time any graduate school professor lectured to his or her students on professional ethics?
Of course, internal restraints are not enough; we also need better external accountability to beef up the costs and probability of getting caught for cheating. Ethical pluralism suggests we need a mix of ethical approaches to keep science progressing.