The State of Scientific Virtues in the United States
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
“The State of Scientific Virtues in the United States”
Surprisingly, there has been almost no empirical research on scientists’ beliefs about the values and character traits that are conducive of exemplary scientific research or the relative importance of such virtues. Sociologist Robert Merton did some pioneering research on science’s cultural values in the 1930’s and 40’s, identifying some important general values that science has as a professional institution, but to our knowledge the current study is the first to investigate what character traits scientists themselves view as important and worthy of cultivation for science to flourish. We were especially interested in the views of scientists who were themselves recognized by their peers as exemplary, such as members of the National Academies of Science and elected Fellows of major scientific professional organizations in the natural sciences. We investigated what traits they thought were important, how important they were, whether and how they could be learned, whether and how they have changed over time, and so on. This presentation explains the methods used to investigate these questions, including recruitment of a representative national sample of exemplary scientists; the current status of the study; and some of our major preliminary findings.