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Preamble

 

The ISI’s Declaration on Professional Ethics consists of a statement of Shared Professional Values and a set of Ethical Principles that derive from these values.

 

For the purposes of this document, the definition of who is a statistician goes well beyond those with formal degrees in the field, to include a wide array of creators and users of statistical data and tools. Statisticians work within a variety of economic, cultural, legal and political settings, each of which influences the emphasis and focus of statistical inquiry. They also work within one of several different branches of their discipline, each involving its own techniques and procedures and, possibly, its own ethical approach.

 

Statisticians work in diverse fields such as economics, psychology, sociology, medicine, whose practitioners have ethical conventions that may influence their conduct. Even within the same setting and branch of statistics, individuals may face various situations and constraints in which ethical questions arise.

 

The aim of this declaration is to enable the statistician's individual ethical judgments and decisions to be informed by shared values and experience, rather than by rigid rules imposed by the profession. The declaration seeks to document widely held principles of the statistics profession and to identify the factors that obstruct their implementation. It recognizes that, the operation of one principle may impede the operation of another, that statisticians – in common with other occupational groups – have competing obligations not all of which can be fulfilled simultaneously. Thus, statisticians will sometimes have to make choices between principles. The declaration does not attempt to resolve these choices or to establish priorities among the principles. Instead it offers a framework within which the conscientious statistician should be able to work comfortably. It is urged that departures from the framework of principles be the result of deliberation rather than of ignorance.

 

The declaration's first intention is to be informative and descriptive rather than authoritarian or prescriptive. Second, it is designed to be applicable as far as possible to the wide and changing areas of statistical methodology and application. For this reason, its provisions are drawn quite broadly. Third, although the principles are framed so as to have wider application to decisions than to the issues it specifically mentions, the declaration is by no means exhaustive. It is designed in the knowledge that it will require periodic updating and amendment, reflecting on the one hand developments in the generation of information and technical tools utilized by statisticians and, on the other hand, in the uses (and, consequently, misuses) of statistical outputs. Fourth, the values, principles, and the commentaries which follow acknowledge with the general written or unwritten rules or norms, such as compliance with the law or the need for probity. However, the declaration restricts itself insofar as possible to matters of specific concern to statistical inquiry.

 

Although not explicitly stated, the Principles inherently reflect the obligations and responsibilities of – as well as the resulting conflicts faced by – statisticians to forces and pressures outside of their own performance, namely to and from:

 

  • Society
  • Employers, Clients, and Funders
  • Colleagues
  • Subjects

 

In carrying out his/her responsibilities, each statistician must be sensitive to the need to ensure that his/her actions are, first, consistent with the best interests of each group and, second, do not favor any group at the expense of any other, or conflict with any of the Principles.

 

The Principles are followed by short commentaries on the conflicts and difficulties inherent in their application. A link is provided for each ethical principle for those who wish to pursue the issues. Similarly, a limited annotated bibliography is provided after the commentaries for those who wish to pursue the issues or consult more detailed texts.

 

 

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