Are Scientific Honesty and "Best Practices" in Conflict?
David M. Abbott, Consulting Geologist, Denver, CO
Honesty is the most frequently cited ethical principle for scientists. The growing use of “best practices” frequently conflicts with the honesty by failing to recognize when the “best” practice is inappropriate due to changed conditions or technology. These changes require the use of professional judgment. But professional judgment is harder for non-professionals to assess, hence the appeal of recipe-type “best” practice standards. Recipes assume standardized input ingredients; something geology fails to provide. Honesty demands this recognition, even if it eliminates the easy answer. These difficulties must be recognized if the use of “best” practices is to be scientifically honest.