Courage, modesty, and humanity in research
Dear All, In research, scientists sometimes become “hostages”of funding. This may show itself in the topic that scholars choose to research or even in findings which they present. It is certainly understandable that we all need means to exist, however, it is also important to keep a fair account of findings. In my opinion, whatever topic we choose to or have to research, it is is necessary to remain committed to the truth. At times this can mean disagreement even with well-established scholars or big companies. In this connection, I have remembered one poem entitled “You have no enemies, you say?” by Charles Mackay:
You have no enemies, you say?
Alas, my friend, the boast is poor,
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes. If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never set the wrong to right.
You’ve been a coward in the fight.
Although this poem is, probably, on a more general topic, in my opinion, it is fully applicable to research because sometimes it is impossible to remain fully truthful and to please everyone. Even when presenting truthful findings means displeasing someone (including sponsors), it is still necessary to present them. It is also necessary to be able to challenge outdated or incorrect research if findings prompt do so. Sometimes, though, it may be necessary to be modest and to acknowledge that the findings (contrary to the initial expectations) simply confirmed the general rule or the existing opinion – if this is the case in reality. Negative results are also useful because they can be built on and, thus, negative results also contribute to general knowledge. Finally, in my opinion, research should also serve humane purposes, whether big or small. Researchers are responsible for what purposes they are doing their research. Of course, practically anything can be misused and researchers are not to be blamed for this. However, sometimes the purposes of research are rather questionable to begin with. In this case, it is the responsibility of the researcher to remember that his/her research must be for humane and peaceful purposes. If research obviously fails the last point, there is no guarantee that this research will not turn against the researcher him/herself or against his/her beloved ones. In sum, I believe that researchers must procure and keep at least three qualities: 1) courage to present truthful findings and to challenge outdated or incorrect research; 2) modesty to acknowledge that the conducted research did not yield any positive results; 3) humanity to conduct research for humane and peaceful purposes. Iaroslav