EDEV_505 Week 5_5

Please allow my intrusion into this fascinating question. I think that it’s probably fair to say that there are values common to all professional environments. John introduced me to Kouzes and Posner (2011), whose 2nd edition reinforces the importance of honesty over 23 years of surveys. Of the 20 personal characteristics listed, the top four (honesty, forward-looking, inspiring, competence) stand out as being both resilient to long-term attitudinal change and to being clearly in a category of their own. However, a question that needs addressing is where there are options regarding professional educational values and how those choices may sanction or inhibit particular actions. An example would be beneficial.

As John is in Canada, please let me use a recent Canadian example. Following an injunction instigated by the former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, research scientists who had received government funding were not permitted to discuss their research with the media without obtaining governmental approval (O’Hara, 2010). The new administration headed by Justin Trudeau overturned this directive late last year (Dinshaw, 2015). In terms of values, we may question the issues in each decision. (For fuller details, see Ogden [2016].) Harper understood the intimate relationship between public funds and research output, and if public resources were used to influence public attitudes, it seemed reasonable for the government to have a say in how those research findings would be disseminated. Research cannot be value free (Greenbank, 2003), and any use of publicly-funded findings to promote a particular ideological stance can be argued to question the value of integrity. Furthermore, science news coverage is often shoddy, using attention-grabbing headlines based on the most egregious interpretation of the source academic paper (see Ehrenberg, 2015 for a pertinent illustration). By forcing researchers to submit their plans to the government prior to press release, the Canadian government may be able to uphold the honesty of Canadian research.

On the other hand, scientists felt “muzzled” (Mandel, 2015) by these policies. To the scientists, they represented oppression and control that went beyond the moral rights of imposition to which the government are entitled. The values of academic freedom and right to democracy were felt to have been infringed. Also as Novella (2016) points out, the ownership of publicly-funded research should be the public, not the government. The value of transparency was seen to be violated. Strong values on both sides of this choice were argued for, making this example an excellent case study in empowerment and inhibition.


Dinshaw, F. (2015, November 9). Harper’s reign of terror finally is over for scientists. National Observer. Retrieved May 10, 2016 from http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/11/09/news/harper%E2%80%99s-reign-terror-finally-over-scientists

Elrenberg, R. (2015). Attempt to shame journalists with chocolate study is shameful. ScienceNews.org. Retrieved May 10, 2016 from https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/culture-beaker/attempt-shame-journalists-chocolate-study-shameful

Greenbank, P. (2003). The role of values in educational research: the case for reflexivity. British Educational Research Journal, 29(6), 791–801. http://doi.org/10.1080/0141192032000137303

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2011). Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ogden, L. E. (2016, 3 May). Nine years of censorship. Nature.com. Retrieved May 10, 2016 fromhttp://www.nature.com/news/nine-years-of-censorship-1.19842

O’Hara, K. (2010). Canada must free scientists to talk to journalists. Nature, 467, 501. Retrieved May 10, 2016 from http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100929/full/467501a.html

Mandel, C. (2015). Federal government unmuzzles scientists. National Observer. Retrieved May 10, 2016 from http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/11/06/news/breaking-trudeau-government-unmuzzles-scientists

Novella, S. (2016). Pulling back Canadian censorship of science. Neurologica. Retrieved May 10, 2016 fromhttp://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/pulling-back-canadian-censorship-of-science/

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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