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Society-first science: 10 rules for responsible research


  • Researchers have outlined 10 actionable rules to help scientists prevent inadvertent harm to society caused by their studies.
  • The guidance includes seeking diverse perspectives, using sensitive language, reporting data and study limitations transparently, ensuring accurate interpretation of findings, and addressing criticism respectfully.

Scientific research holds great potential to bring about positive changes in society. However, it can also inadvertently cause harm to individuals or social groups by reinforcing stereotypes, biases, or negative perceptions. Researchers often lack the necessary training and tools to consider and minimise such negative impacts of their studies. To address this issue, Dr Niv Reggev and a team of international colleagues have developed 10 rules for socially responsible science, recently published in PLOS Computational Biology:

  1. Get diverse perspectives early on: when appropriate, gather input from members of marginalised groups to gain crucial insights into their experiences.
  2. Understand the limits of your design with regard to your claims: anticipate and acknowledge the potential limitations of your study in advance to avoid flawed conclusions.
  3. Incorporate underlying social theory and historical events: recognise the importance of social context to ensure correct interpretations.
  4. Be transparent about your hypothesis and analyses: pre-register study protocols and analyses to inspire confidence in the findings and minimise the risk of drawing incorrect conclusions.
  5. Report your results and limitations accurately and transparently: avoid oversimplification and share data and analyses openly to enable peer review and replication.
  6. Choose your terminology carefully: use sensitive and inclusive language to avoid reinforcing stereotypes, and seek feedback from the communities being researched.
  7. Seek a rigorous review and editorial process: collaborate with rigorous review and editorial processes to ensure accuracy and enhance public confidence in the results.
  8. Play an active role in ensuring correct interpretations of your results: collaborate with university or journal press offices to avoid sensationalised or inaccurate press releases.
  9. Address criticism from peers and the general public with respect: thoughtfully review and respond to criticism, fostering constructive dialogue.
  10. When all else fails, consider submitting a correction or a self-retraction: rectify any flaws identified post-publication to uphold the integrity of the scientific record.

The authors emphasise that these rules are not meant to be prescriptive but rather serve as guidance to assist scientists in considering the social impact of their studies. By following them, scientists can be empowered to conduct research that not only generates valuable knowledge but also upholds ethical standards, fosters inclusivity and transparency, and avoids detrimental societal consequences.


Should researchers undergo specific training on considering and minimising potential societal harm caused by their studies?

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