A letter printed in the 20 June 2008 issue of Science magazine proposes an Oath of integrity, professionalism and ethical conduct for graduate students. The authors review the well known Hippocratic Oath which is one of the basic tenets of the medical profession:
The Hippocratic Oath, recited by medical school graduates worldwide, is arguably the best-known professional honor code. This centuries-old oath instills a commitment to altruism, professionalism, honesty, skill, knowledge, duty, loyalty, and fraternity among medical doctors.
Is it time for scientists to adopt something similar?
The group of authors from the University of Toronto propose that it is indeed time.
We created an oath to be recited voluntarily at the first meeting of each year's new graduate student body in IMS. We specifically chose to hold the oath ceremony at the entry point to graduate studies rather than at graduation day in order to introduce students to these concepts early.
We propose that a graduate student oath should constitute a standard requirement of life science graduate programs. This oath should be the cornerstone of a programmatic series of information modules addressing issues of community, professionalism, and ethical conduct provided by the graduate department and reinforced throughout the student's training by their faculty mentor.
A bold pronouncement indeed. So what is this oath anyway?
"I, [NAME], have entered the serious pursuit of new knowledge as a member of the community of graduate students at the University of Toronto.
"I declare the following:
"Pride: I solemnly declare my pride in belonging to the international community of research scholars.
"Integrity: I promise never to allow financial gain, competitiveness, or ambition cloud my judgment in the conduct of ethical research and scholarship.
"Pursuit: I will pursue knowledge and create knowledge for the greater good, but never to the detriment of colleagues, supervisors, research subjects or the international community of scholars of which I am now a member.
"By pronouncing this Graduate Student Oath, I affirm my commitment to professional conduct and to abide by the principles of ethical conduct and research policies as set out by the University of Toronto."