Crystallography in Canada

Veritas vos Liberabit: code of ethics in scientific work 

Joseph (José) Désiré Hubert Donnay   

Reprinted from Canadian Mineralogist (33/2): inside back cover 

(reprinted with permission of Canadian Mineralogist editor, Robert F. Martin)


1. Observe conscientiously. Record faithfully. Reason coldly. Infer prudently. State your conclusions courageously.  


2. When the investigation is finished, be brave and write it up. Do not "rush into print", but know when the job is done. 


3. Write clearly, with the determination of making yourself understood, not in the hope of impressing people! Look for elegance in simplicity: shun verbiage and pomposity.  


4. Be honest in every statement you make. Avoid double talk! 


5. Do not bluff your way out of difficulties. Keep your scientific integrity at all times. 


6. Do not stop reworking your manuscript until you are sure you can no longer improve it. Watch details too: anything worth doing is worth doing well. Above all: do not expect the referee to clear up your mess for you!  


7. Give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge all help you received. Give thanks with dignity. The important point is to say what the person did do for you. (A perfect example: "Miss Ann Pletinger took all the X-ray photographs." Bad form would be: "I am immensely grateful to the gracious and distinguished Miss So-and-so for the invaluable help she gave me in the course of this investigation.") 


8. Do not hesitate to ask your professional friends for criticism and advice, as you yourself should be willing to help them at any time. Scientific research is a beautiful co-operative adventure, not a cut-throat business. Professions in which people help one another rate high in the community, in the Nation, and in the World.  


9. If you sign a joint paper, you must check the whole paper (repeat every calculation, etc.). If you are not willing or able to go through this checking, then you should refuse co-authorship, and you should sign only that section of the paper for which you are willing to be responsible. 


10. When the referees' reports come in, squash your feelings, suppress your passion. Weigh and appraise. Let only your reason decide. 


11. Reject the argument of authority (for ten good people can be wrong), but accept the authority of the argument (for one single judicious remark may clinch it)! 


12. Have plenty of scientific humility to draw on when you start revising your manuscript. In every instance, make sure that the referee's argument is right, then accept his criticism gratefully, correct the flaw, and sincerely resolve never to make the same mistake again. 


13. Be a perfectionist when reading galley proof. If the editor is willing, insist on seeing page proof too, and check that your corrections have been executed.  


14. After your paper has been published, an error may be detected in it. Either you find it yourself, or someone else finds it for you. Perhaps a friend of yours writes you a nice letter about it, or a stranger publishes a note to set things straight. In any case, you should be thankful the error was discovered. You must, of course, immediately send an Erratum to the editor, in which you recognize the validity of the criticism. If somebody suggested the correction to you, it is usual to mention him by name. Avoid explaining the mistake away: your fellow scientists are not interested in excuses (they are humans like you, and they too make mistakes); all that matters is the final corrected statement. Remember that your stature as a scientist is not diminished, but actually increased, by your sending in the Errata. 


15. Let a cheap politician worry about his "image"; as a scientist, your only concern is TRUTH. 


Joseph (José) Désiré Hubert Donnay, born on June 6, 1902 in Grandville, Belgium, passed away peacefully at home, on the flanks of Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, on August 8, 1994. The above, reprinted here with permission of the family, was first circulated to students and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University in 1965-1966. All of us who worked closely with José know how well he lived by the above Code of Ethics. It does not seem at all out of place to reprint it thirty years later, as a memento to his high standards, and in particular to his sustained efforts in the production of this journal.