Trust and the Future of Research

Scientific research, like other cooperative endeavors, requires trust to flourish. The distinguished philosopher Annette Baier explains that trust is confident reliance.1 Both elements, confidence and reliance, are vital.


In this article, I address only ethical questions about upholding values that contribute to defining good science. But a second category of ethical questions also exists: questions about the consequences of scientific work. When a funding agency asks that grant proposals address the ethical and societal ramifications of the scientific work being proposed, the agency is raising matters of this second type.


The number of graduate students per faculty research supervisor has grown dramatically in some fields, which raises serious questions about the quality of research supervision and mentoring for those students. The lack of faculty supervision is further complicated by the presence of postdocs in some fields: Sometimes postdocs are the primary recipients of faculty supervision, which leaves graduate students to depend on supervision by relatively inexperienced postdocs.


If the pleasure in doing research erodes, only the scarce external rewards will remain as incentives. Competition will become ever more cutthroat as the fear of detection becomes the only check on cutting corners in pursuit of those external rewards.


very interesting article…. it is from physics today… i don’t really agree with the analysis of the socio-historic situation… it seems to be pure nostalgia to me, because i think the discipline in the 50’s that you find at ford, ibm, big labs and universities and the like arose out of the disciplining of men and women in the wars, not in the trust in small communities…..