Our Fundamental Scientific Principles
The members of this laboratory have discussed, and will continue to discuss, the core values and principles by which we do science. Our starting points are in full agreement with Caltech's honor code and statement of community, which emphasize an absolutely essential prerequisite for all science: the need for a collective, cooperative enterprise that places highest value on free and unbiased exchange of ideas. Here we elaborate on the principles we hold most important, and explain why they are so important to us.
- Respect, freedom, and cooperation. First and foremost, we believe that doing good science requires being a good person. Science is collective, and it is incredibly hard; it cannot be done alone, and it cannot be done selfishly. More practically, doing good science requires a working environment in which we respect every other person, but at the same time feel free to challenge and debate the views of any person. Most specifically, this principle explicitly asks us to reject any form of bigotry or discrimination, including that based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, citizenship, political views, or social status. Examples of adhering to this principle include taking action to support the rights of anybody who is so discriminated, and includes the free discussion of our views at lab meetings.
- Balance and health. Second, we believe that doing good science requires being a happy person. We recognize that you cannot do good science if you are physically or psychologically unwell, and we recognize that physical and mental health are a right of every person, even when circumstances beyond our control compromise them. We therefore place value on time spent on all activities that enhance physical and mental health. Examples include outdoor activities, group activities such as lab dinners, movies, camping trips, time spent with family and friends, and other activity that is not itself doing science, but that ultimately helps us do science.
- Valuing the scientific method. The ultimate goal of science is to provide us with an understanding of the world that surpasses what we are individually capable of. In so doing, science should strive to give us a greater sense of purpose in the world, a greater power to manipulate the world, and a greater insight to prevent suffering in the world. While these are grand and long-term goals, we believe they can only be achieved through the scientific method, which is objective, reason-based inquiry. The scientific method requires evidence and logical argument to support conclusions; it requires healthy skepticism, constructive criticism, verification, and a continual vigilance for bias. This in turn requires open scientific discourse, bringing us back to point #1.
- Fighting racism. In the context of the extraordinary events of Spring 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic, which laid bare many of the pre-existing injustices within American society, and the world-wide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd – we feel compelled to add this fourth point to our lab's statement of principles. We begin by reaffirming our broad commitment to respect, freedom, and cooperation, as well as the rejection of any form of discrimination and bigotry (see point 1). But at this time we also wish specifically to acknowledge the many forms of racism and inequity experienced by Black People, Indigenous Americans, and People of Color (BIPOC) in the United States. Simply put, Black Lives Matter, a statement we view as apolitical: it summarizes a basic fact that needs reiteration in the face of consistent, systemic aggression. We also feel that simply acknowledging social injustice is not enough. We have therefore made a commitment as a lab to educate ourselves and to take action on these issues, both within the US and more specifically in STEM.