I would like to know sources, articles, books or other, that provide information on ethical aspects in the research of mathematics, I wondered what is the literature that this community knows about ethical issues and proposals that were proposed in the context of mathematical research.

Question. What is the literature about ethical aspects in the context of the mathematical research? Many thanks.

I'm asking about it as a reference request, thus only is required to add the reference of such remarks, articles or books. From your answer to this reference request I can to contrast with the information that I know.

I think that my question is legitimate. I think that this site MathOverflow should be a safe site to ask good questions, and I think that my Question as reference request can be useful for more users.


Maurice Chiodo is someone I am aware of regularly writing on ethics. Here's one starting point: https://ethics.maths.cam.ac.uk/pub

  • $\begingroup$ Many thanks for your reference. $\endgroup$ – user142929 Nov 25 '19 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ Further to my website above, you can find two recent pieces written by me in the LMS Newsletter about ethics in mathematics, both of which make some specific reference to mathematics research: The Importance of Ethics in Mathematics, Newsletter of the London Mathematical Society, Issue 48, p22-26, September 2019. Teaching Ethics in Mathematics, Newsletter of the London Mathematical Society, Issue 49, p22-26, November 2019. Unfortunately I cannot list these as an answer, as the question is currently on-hold. $\endgroup$ – MCC Nov 27 '19 at 11:17
  • $\begingroup$ @MCC you can now add them as an answer, as the question is re-opened $\endgroup$ – David Roberts Dec 2 '19 at 8:19

Michael Harris has written some blog posts on ethical aspects of mathematics.

There is also an opinion piece by Tom Leinster about ethical questions arising for mathematicians working for intelligence agencies. More on mathematics and mass surveillance can be found here.

  • $\begingroup$ Many thanks I'm going to read your references. $\endgroup$ – user142929 Nov 26 '19 at 21:09

Here's an article from the 1980's on the AMS voting to turn down Reagan-era Star Wars funding in math:


Bill Thurston was instrumental in getting the AMS to vote on this. He also wrote an article "Military funding in mathematics" that I can't find online, but a shortened version was in the Notices: https://www.ams.org/journals/notices/198701/198701FullIssue.pdf (p. 39). Thurston's AMS obituary also mentions that: https://www.ams.org/journals/notices/198701/198701FullIssue.pdf

Allyn Jackson discussed the AMS motion in a 2008 article: https://www.ams.org/notices/200804/tx080400445p.pdf

Alexander Grothendieck also famously resigned from IHÉS, ostensibly over similar issues.

Is that the kind of thing you were askng about?

  • $\begingroup$ Many thanks for your answer, the only source that I've seen before posting this question was a video on YouTube about the ethic aspects consider by Alexander Grothendieck (also refers Bourbaki). This (Mooc course) video (in Spanish) on YouTube from the official channel ULLmedia - Universidad de La Laguna and title 3.2 La financiación de la ciencia y la tecnología: Alexander Grothendieck (the date is 22nd March, 2019). Your references also are very good. $\endgroup$ – user142929 Nov 27 '19 at 8:31
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    $\begingroup$ You might like Terry Winograd (computer scientist)'s article on a similar topic to Thurston's: cpsr.org/prevsite/publications/newsletters/issues/2001/Summer/… $\endgroup$ – none Nov 27 '19 at 9:09

At the upcoming Joint Mathematics Meeting in Denver, January 2020, there will be an AMS Committee on the Profession Panel Discussion: Mathematics and Ethics, Wednesday 15th. It might be worthwhile contacting the moderator and/or panelists of this discussion to see what references they know about.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it is a good idea. $\endgroup$ – user142929 Dec 2 '19 at 7:52

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