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Ethics and the need for T-shaped professionals

Graduate students from the University of Maryland discuss the need for scientists to develop knowledge and skills from other disciplines if they are to operate with integrity as they shape our understanding of our world.

The integrity of science, and its potential to shape our understanding of our world, mandates that scientists maintain ethical standards by which they acquire and disseminate knowledge, say Alex Fisher, Long Jiang, and Vanessa Vargas of the University of Maryland.

Commonly, scientists will participate in discussions that include topics in which they are not an expert – especially during environmental crises when immediate action is required. Scientists have an obligation to do their homework on relevant topics which may be outside their comfort zone and maintain an active network of colleagues that can help address multi-faceted questions. Scientists must understand that they hold a moral authority and as such should not offer conclusive statements on topics in which they are not an expert.

As graduate students at the start of our scientific careers, we should consider not only the ethics of being a scientist, but also the application of those ethics to the diverse skillsets required as professionals. An in-depth understanding of our speciality is only one part of being a T-shaped professional. (McIntosh & Taylor 2013). We must diligently develop knowledge and skills from other disciplines to effectively organise discussions and translate those discussions to productive outcomes through leadership.


More information

Read the article Science can change the world: the ethics of doing so and our obligation to act with integrity:

Read article A T-shaped future for water professionals? by IWC's Dr Brian McIntosh and André Taylor:


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