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«6.12.2007 Code of Academic Ethics Ben-Gurion University of the Negev A. Abstract: Basic Values 1. The University, as the name implies, is a free ...»

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Code of Academic Ethics

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

A. Abstract: Basic Values

1. The University, as the name implies, is a free research community, established on a

foundation of universal values. These values are the values of truth and liberty, and their

derivative values of impartiality: honesty, justice, equality, and respect for all human beings.

There are deep links between these values: we cannot ensure truth without freedom of research,

while freedom of research in turn requires all the values of impartiality. The reverse of these values, in its various forms of arbitrariness, inequality or lack of respect for human autonomy, also affects the ability of truth to stand up to the relevant critical tests that are required.

2. The following ethical code provides a practical interpretation of these values in the daily life of a modern academic institution, and constitutes what can be seen as an ideal set of rules for the University in the fields of research, teaching and management, and in its daily life.

Implementation of these values finds expression at institutional level in the principles of academic freedom, in scrupulously guarding civil rights and human dignity, in the prevention of any kind of irrelevant discrimination, in an internal regimen of tolerance with respect to differences and diversities, uncompromising integrity in research, teaching and the publication of professional work, strict maintenance of truth in research, teaching and administrative conduct, in the prevention of any kind of academic fraud or dishonesty, and in respect for the theoretical and administrative independence of the academic community as a free research community.

Chapters of the code Purposes Basic Ends Academic ethics in research Academic ethics in teaching Academic ethics in the publication of professional work Academic ethics in issues of management and conduct within the University B. Purposes

1. The purpose of this document is (a) to clarify the fundamental values of academic ethics, which provide the basis for the activities of the University and the members of its academic faculty*; (b) to elaborate the values prevailing at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev as derived from these fundamental values; (c) to describe the specific practices and procedures, which are based on these values and which are employed at Ben-Gurion University.

The function of the ethical code is to provide an explicit definition of the ethical principles practiced by the University, so that they can guide the members of the faculty in their daily work, to clarify what is expected of them in research, teaching and publishing activity and in the management of the University, and to help to settle the conflicts and differences that are to be expected in a complex system.

The ethical code is also intended to clarify to the general public and to various external parties – governmental, commercial and others – the nature of the University’s activity with respect to its objectives and the values on which it is based, so that they are fully understood by anyone requiring the University’s services as a consumer, or anyone seeking to influence the work of the University as an interested party.

The importance of the ethical code lies in presenting signals that indicate what is permitted and what is forbidden, and what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, for faculty members to study and use. The code assumes that members of the University faculty are law-abiding people, who care about ethical and appropriate conduct, and its role is to clarify what is required of the faculty, in accordance with the basic values underlying the University community.

2. The various values in this ethical code are not all of the same type. Some of them express academic virtues that are essential if the University community is to exist and to thrive. Some values are designed to establish the ethical obligations of academic faculty members and are expressed as positive and negative commandments. Other values are intended to define the basic rights of members of the academic faculty, and by their nature they impose obligations on the University and on the academic community in general. There are also values that stipulate requirements beyond duty, or ideals to which the University aspires as a free research community.

An ethical code is not a legal document, and does not provide the basis for legal proceedings. At the same time, a systematic and significant deviation from the spirit of the code and its rules could provide grounds for disciplinary measures. The following ethical code does not replace any existing statutes or regulations, but is additional to them.

3. The implementation of the ethical code will be monitored by the University Ethics Committee, whose members will be elected by the University Senate. The chairman of the Committee will be a retired faculty member, and members will be chosen from the academic staff (a representative of each Faculty or Higher Academic unit), plus a representative of the public. The tasks of the Committee are: (1) to examine requests and questions referred to it on various ethical matters, and to provide responses to these questions based on the ethical code;

(2) to examine ethical complaints brought before it by parties in the University, and to provide recommendations for action on these complaints, to be submitted to the University Rector; (3) to submit recommendations for approval by the Senate to amend, add to or revise the ethical code, as required; (4) to give advice on ethical matters to the University’s disciplinary committees. For the purpose of preparing its recommendations, committee members will meet with the parties involved in the subjects on its agenda, and will study any relevant documents, as required. If necessary, the Committee may refer specific cases for handling by authorized parties within the University.

* Wherever the masculine form is used in this document, it should be construed as referring equally to men and women.

–  –  –

1. The fundamental aim of the University is to seek, investigate and teach the truth, to promote all fields of knowledge and scholarship, to develop cultural, intellectual, creative and critical activity within the University and in the wider society that it serves.

In every case, truth will be studied from the professional perspective of the researcher, but the publicity of research and its subjection to constant testing and review serve in the long run to ensure its objectivity, and to draw it closer to the truth.

University researchers and teachers are employed for the purpose of promoting these ends, and they are committed to implementing them.

In their research, the University’s researchers are committed to originality and professionalism, according to the criteria that are acceptable in their particular field, while making use of proven methods that are considered the most appropriate by experts in that field. If researchers introduce innovative methods that they have developed themselves, these methods must also meet the tests of research benefit and of theoretical and logical suitability. University researchers are also committed to publishing their work in the designated publications in their field, making the results of their work available for continual review by their colleagues.

In their teaching, the University’s lecturers are committed to teaching the principles of their respective disciplines and the theories and methods generally used in those disciplines. The lecturers are also committed to imparting the results of their research to their students, and the advanced methods and theories which find expression in these results. University teaching, as distinct from teaching in other institutions, is largely research driven, and must lay the foundations for future generations of researchers. Therefore, students must comply with strict criteria for entry to the University and for advancing from stage to stage in their studies. It is the duty of the university lecturers to ensure that these professional criteria are met.

2. To promote these aims, the University operates on a non-profit basis and independently of any immediate social benefit.

A University serves society by promoting education and knowledge. University research often has commercial applications and benefits for society. However, these benefits are consequences of research and do not constitute a university purpose in themselves. This is also true for the fields of applied research, which occupy a respected position in the University. Even in these fields, the University’s purpose is to promote social benefits through the applied research, and not separately from it.

The University does not exist to serve commercial or political objectives, however good and beneficial. The University serves inquiry, scholarship and culture, and any other benefit derived from it is a result of promoting these values. Therefore, any attempt to run the University according to criteria of profit making institutions would undermine its ability to achieve its main objectives.

3. In order to implement these basic aims, the University is committed to ensuring the academic freedom of its researchers, teachers and students. It is the right and even the duty of every researcher and lecturer to inquire whatever he takes to merit inquiry, to publish his findings and make them available for review, and to express his opinions on the inquiries and findings of his colleagues.

Academic freedom is an essential condition for realizing the University’s fundamental values.

The study and teaching of truth is always carried out from the unique perspective of one researcher or another. This is the perspective acquired by that researcher in the course of his studies, and which is embodied in the methods he uses and in the “paradigm” within which he operates. This subjective dimension of theoretical research requires amendment in a public and free framework of professional review, in which each method, theory or “paradigm” is made available for strict professional criticism. It is only the existence of this type of review system that can ensure, in the long run and in spite of the human weaknesses of each researcher, the objectivity necessary for research into truth.

The existence of the necessary review system is impossible without full academic freedom for every researcher, lecturer or research-student, since, without this freedom, it is impossible to ensure that each theory, method, opinion or research, is exposed to the exposing light of the severest criticism. Only constant exposure to criticism can ensure that the best theories rise to the top, while the weaker ones are discarded.

The limits of academic freedom are the limits of professional expression. Academic freedom is limited to the fields of research and is not intended for non-professional uses. A lecturer who insults his students or colleagues, or offends their dignity, cannot claim academic freedom as his defense; a lecturer who exploits his lessons for non-professional purposes (party-politics or religious exhortation, incitement to violence, slander) cannot benefit from the defense of academic freedom against disciplinary or even criminal complaints. A researcher who distorts his data with the aim of adjusting them to his preconceived opinions is not entitled to plead academic freedom.

Government and social systems may sometimes define clearly academic topics as political.

Thus for example, many issues linked to the theory of evolution have been defined as political, as well as issues pertaining to theories in psychology, sociology, history, philosophy, and political theory. A lecturer’s academic freedom includes the right to inquire into such issues and discuss them, and often it is his professional duty to do so.

An internal academic body – the Institutional Ethics Committee – is the forum for discussing disputed cases and for considering whether or not specific statements are professional, and therefore eligible to be defended on the grounds of academic freedom, or not. Any restriction of academic freedom must be discussed by the Ethics Committee, in order to avoid external involvement and to ensure the long term survival of academic freedom.

4. In addition to their academic freedom, the University’s researchers and teachers enjoy all the civil freedoms enjoyed by every citizen of the state, including freedom of expression and freedom of association. The University does not restrict these freedoms, even if it sometimes has an interest in regulating them (for example, regulating demonstrations on the University campus). Researchers are permitted to express their political or religious opinions without interference, and may act to realize them in legal ways, but without exploiting for that purpose the resources that the University puts at their disposal for the purposes of teaching and research.

Members of the University faculty bear the responsibility for separating their professional and civilian activities. Expressing a party-political or religious opinion in an academic lesson is unacceptable, since such opinions could have an unfair influence on, or intimidation of students taking part in that class. The University is entitled to regulate the political and religious expression of its lecturers, even though these are part of their civil freedoms, to prevent the exploitation of teaching and research for party-political or religious purposes.

5. In order to implement these basic ends, the University, as well as all its staff members, are committed to respecting the dignity and rights of all people, irrespective of religion, nationality, race, gender, sexual preference or ethnic origin.

An internal regime of equality, prevention of discrimination, and respect for human rights is a fundamental condition for implementing the University’s basic values. Any kind of discrimination within the University, affecting admissions, employment, promotion, and so on, undermines the need to ensure that every opinion, world-view or theory can find proper expression in the University and be exposed to criticism in a fair manner. Human dignity and rights are, of course, central values outside the University as well, but the University has a special duty to preserve and foster them, since without them it cannot fulfill its central defining function – the critical striving for truth while maintaining freedom and diversity of views.

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