1 Citation (Scopus)


Scientific freedom is rightly extolled as an important moral and intellectual value. However, as is often noted, with freedom comes responsibility; scientific freedom is no different in this respect. However, science is essentially a cooperative enterprise that typically takes place in institutional settings and is shaped by institutional purposes. Therefore, scientific freedom, properly understood, is in large part an expression of the intellectual freedom of scientists engaged in cooperative epistemic activity in organisations, such as universities and firms. Accordingly, the responsibilities of scientists and technologists are a species of collective responsibility. In this chapter I argue that collective responsibility is essentially joint responsibility and, therefore, a species of relational individual human responsibility. I distinguish institutional responsibility from moral responsibility, and both from mere causal responsibility. In doing so I also rely on the analysis of the organized, indeed organisational, action of scientists in terms of my notion of a layered structure of joint epistemic actions. This analytical notion allows me to ascribe collective moral responsibility to scientists, at least in principle, both for the bad, as well as the good, outcomes of their research. It paves the way for scientists and technologists to be ascribed moral responsibility (jointly with legislators, regulators etc.) for devising training programs, regulations and so on to deal with dual use issues. I also consider various collective actions problems that exacerbate dual use problems.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDual use science and technology, ethics and weapons of mass destruction
EditorsSeumas Miller
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783319926063
ISBN (Print)9783319926056
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameSpringerBriefs in Ethics
ISSN (Print)2211-8101
ISSN (Electronic)2211-811X


Dive into the research topics of 'Collective responsibility'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this