News - February 28, 2012

Oath for doctoral graduates

Scientists ought to take an oath when they get their PhD degrees not to lose sight of the value of science. This is the opinion of Rotterdam philosophy professor Ingrid Robeyns.

Scientist Diederik Stapel has committed fraud.
This opinion was published in the Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad last weekend. According to her, a promise like this can serve as a guiding principle on how to behave. When taking this oath, PhD graduates have to promise to hold the value of science in high esteem. The oath thus resembles the Hippocratic Oath which doctors have to swear by. Robeyns carried out a discussion in the newspaper with two other professors on how to avoid misconduct in the academic world.
What led to this discussion was the American interactive movie The Lab. In this film about a medical laboratory, the viewer has to get into the skin of one of the characters. The film is initiated by the American Ministry of Health to arm young scientists against situations which may lead to fraud. The oath can serve as a guide, says Robeyns. 'Imagine a doctor in a difficult situation thinking by himself: Wait a moment, I have taken an oath. That's what scientists could do too.'