Why can’t we stop rogue scientists from engaging in dubious research?

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Chinese scientist He Jiankui shocked the science community when he announced the birth of the world's first gene-edited babies. Image credit: Futurism

[C]an the public control science that leaves us with permanent and unenviable consequences? Recent news suggests that the answer is “not really.” There are tools that we can use to place limits on scientists and the choices they make. But none of them can fully, reliably, put the public in the driver’s seat.

On Nov. 25, MIT Technology Review broke the story of He Jiankui, a Chinese researcher who claims to have created the first genetically edited human babies.

You might be able to skirt the law. You may find the funding to do ethically dubious research. But will you be able to look your peers in the eyes — and keep your job — in the morning?

Related article:  With a simple tweak, CRISPR’s genetic scissors get an accuracy boost

There are lots of different ways this system has real power. Publication in a peer-reviewed journal marks the difference between legitimacy and laughingstock. Peer review controls governmental and non-governmental funding sources. A scientist, in whatever field, who violates the codes of ethics established by his research institution or his professional organization could find himself friendless and jobless … and labless.

But He risked it anyway.

[Y]ou could say that He is as much a product of the community of science as he is in violation of it. The mad scientist will never go away, either as trope or reality.

Read full, original post: We Have Ways To Stop Rogue Scientists. They Don’t Always Work.


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