restricted access 22 Obligations to Fellow and Future Bioethicists: Publication
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c h a p t e r t w e n t y - t w o Obligations to Fellow and Future Bioethicists Publication h i l d e l i n d e m a n n , ph.d. Ludwig Wittgenstein once likened doing philosophy to swimming under water —there is an almost irresistible temptation to come up for air. Many bioethicists , I dare say, feel the same way about writing for publication. We’re tempted to surface when we stare for an hour or so at that blank first page, when the dreadful suspicion grows on us that everything we’re saying has already been said much better by everybody else, and when we hit the point where, in the vivid image of a friend of mine, we’ve set our hair on fire and are trying to put it out with a tack hammer. What keeps us going is our desire to participate in the ongoing debates and discussions in the field, intellectual curiosity about some topic that we want to understand better, or a rash promise to an editor or granting agency. The standing expectation at our various institutions that we will be productive scholars doesn’t hurt, either. As a reasonably well-broken-in author, the current editor of Hypatia, former editor at the Hastings Center Report, editor of a number of collections of essays, general coeditor of two book series, and—worst of all—a moral philosopher by trade, I’ve developed some tolerably fixed views over the years about the ethics of academic publishing. In what follows, I’ll identify what I take to be the more important, commonly shared understandings of the responsibilities attached to the five roles that make the wheels of bioethics publishing go round: the author, the publisher, the editor, the reviewer, and the graduate student mentor. As it’s largely through publishing that bioethics defines itself as a field, our professional identities, relationships with our colleagues, and the public’s trust in bioethics all hinge on these role-related responsibilities. I begin with the most important role—that of the author , as it’s the author’s work that lies at the very heart of publishing. authors As Alasdair MacIntyre might have said but didn’t, bioethics publishing is a practice—a settled, socially recognized, rule-governed activity involving a number of people in the exercise of a set of skills aimed at some specific end. MacIntyre argues that unlike such external goods as money and social prestige, a practice’s internal goods can only be attained by exercising the virtues that inhere in the practice (MacIntyre 1984, 187–91). If this is so, authors can’t have the satisfaction of getting the argument just right, of understanding something diªcult, of contributing to a growing body of knowledge, and the like unless they possess the requisite virtues. The ancient Greek virtues of courage, practical judgment, and temperance surely attach to publishing: it takes courage to subject one’s work to the scrutiny of peers and to keep writing even when reviewers have panned one’s most recent book. It takes practical judgment to structure one’s arguments properly and to be a good critic of one’s own work. And it takes temperance to refrain from becoming self-important and to allow for the reasonableness of other opinions. Add to these the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love—faith in one’s work, for example , hope that the scholarly enterprise increases understanding, and love of the written word—and it becomes clear that she who would reap the benefits internal to publication must be well steeped in the virtues. Because virtues are qualities of character, however, they can’t show us our responsibilities to others except in the most general terms. To understand more specifically what authors owe the other participants in the practice of publishing and to the reading public, we have to identify the socially normative expectations that seem to be operating at the moment and then assess those expectations to see whether they withstand moral scrutiny. First and most importantly, authors are expected to be honest. They violate this expectation when they write things they know to be false, or fudge their data, or misrepresent other bioethicists’ positions. Second, authors owe their colleagues consideration as their work undergoes prepublication review. Most journals in which bioethicists publish operate on a shoestring, with no extra money in their budgets for paying their...