Scientists’ views on (moral) luck

Martin Sand, Karin Jongsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Scientific discoveries are often to some degree influenced by luck. Whether luck’s influence is at odds with common-sense intuitions about responsibility, is the central concern of the philosophical debate about moral luck. Do scientists acknowledge that luck plays a role in their work and–if so–do they consider it morally problematic? The present article discusses the results of four focus groups with scientists, who were asked about their views on luck in their fields and its moral implications. The participants underscored circumstantial luck as a key dimension of luck in science. Nevertheless, most participants insisted that there are ways of executing ‘control’ in science: They believe that virtues and skills can increase one’s chances for success. The cultivation of these skills and virtues was considered a reasonable ground for pride. Prizes and rewards were rarely tied to personal desert, but instead to their societal function.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Responsible Innovation
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • control
  • Moral luck
  • qualitative research
  • RRI
  • serendipity

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