Everyone knows that how you say something can be as important as what you say. "Framing" is the science buzzword for 2007 and, as discussed in Do scientists need to 'frame' the debate for non-scientists? framing can be used for good or evil.

Both sides of the global warming debate accuse each other of framing and even some science sites persistently use framing to advance whatever agenda they are promoting. This has led to a great deal of discussion and research.

It's been recognized that most scientists are quite ethical in their research but discussions with non-experts is more of a grey area.

"Often times framing will help the public to understand what's going on," said Bruce Glymour, associate professor of philosophy at Kansas State University. "There are appropriate ways to frame an issue but also some inappropriate ways."

For instance, Glymour said researchers talking about a new technology could frame their discovery in terms of scientific progress and how this development enhances our knowledge. Or, he said, they could frame it terms of fear, such as how this technology is needed because of a real or perceived danger.

"The question is whether scientists are aware of ethical restrictions on when you can frame in various ways," Glymour said.

Glymour his colleagues are part of a Research Communications Ethics Project, a collaboration between the Center for the Understanding of Origins at K-State, the philosophy and psychology departments, and colleagues from the physics department, Division of Biology and the department of speech communication, theater and dance. K-State received a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for Ethics Education in Science and Engineering. The K-State researchers are using the grant to find out what scientists think about the ethics involved when communicating with the lay public.

"The idea behind asking these questions is to see whether scientists are making assumptions that will lead to miscommunication," Glymour said. "Are scientists failing to recognize certain kinds of biases that are standard? Some biases are simple to adjust for, if you know they are there. Some adjustments are appropriate, some aren't."

Glymour said he and his colleagues hope to use this information to develop better training for scientists to help them communicate more effectively.

"Social scientists have a longstanding interest in these kinds of questions," Glymour said. "The physical and biological scientists have been taking it more seriously, and interest is slowly growing."

Collaborators on the project include Ron Downey, professor of psychology; Amy Lara, assistant professor of philosophy; David Rintoul, associate professor of biology; Bill Schenck-Hamlin, professor of speech communication; Scott Tanona, assistant professor of philosophy; Larry Weaver, professor of physics; and Michael Smith, doctoral student in psychology, Manhattan, a graduate researcher.