Science & Ethics

science ethics

That inner sense of right and wrong is something that people rely on. Scientists use more than just an inner voice, though. What makes scientific behavior ethical or unethical? What are the foundations, and who decides?

How to Use this Video

This video gives students a sense of where ethics and science interact. It discusses questions of ethical obligations to science, to the public, and to themselves. It also mentions specific ethical considerations when dealing with humans in a hospital or clinical trial setting.

Since this video takes a more philosophical turn, it mostly considers the Knowledge Sense skills. This video features many scientists from different disciplines, so it’s pretty flexible in terms of where you might choose to put it in your lesson plans.

Have thoughts about the video? What resources or activities have you used to teach this topic in your class? We’d love to know – share your voice by sending us a message below 🙂


Science Senses Featured in this Video

Knowledge sense

Understanding the nature of science

Designing experiments

Communicating science

Understanding ethical obligations of science and scientists

Acknowledging the intersection of science and society

Activities & Lesson Plans

You may want to take a historical perspective here, and have students research ethical failures in science. How did the scientific community react? What changed?

Students can also think of examples where an ethical decision and a scientific one seem to be at odds (for example, continuing a clinical trial when the drug seems to work and the control group is dying), and discuss what they would do as different stakeholders in these decision


Iaccarino, M. 2001. Science and Ethics. EMBO Reports. 2(9):747-750.

Skloot. 2010. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway Books. 

White and Dennin. 2008. Chapter 6: Science, Technology and Society from Science Appreciation: Introduction to Science Literacy. (Access this OER here).

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