Are We Ready for a Data Science Oath?

Just as we have best practices for creating a machine learning model, Data Scientists should be bound to a set of rules when it comes to ethical conduct

Nicole Janeway Bills
10 min readJan 6, 2022


Photo by Kevin Noble on Unsplash

The consequences of machine learning extend beyond predictive performance. In this article, we explore a potential path towards creating an oath for Data Scientists.

The objective of the Data Scientist’s Oath is to establish a standard for ethical content across the profession. I‘m hopeful this will reduce instances of questionable data use and machine learning malpractice.

To inform the conversation around the text, we’ll delve into the history of professional oaths in other fields, such as medicine, engineering, and accounting. We will examine some potential tenets of a Data Science oath and discuss how such a commitment could be implemented.

In this article:

  1. History of Professional Oaths
  2. An Oath for Data Scientists?
  3. Implementation of the Data Scientist’s Oath
  4. Summary

History of Professional Oaths

Ethical commitments in the tradition of western medicine date back over 2000 years. The physicians’ Hippocratic Oath is one of the oldest and certainly the most famous:

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not…



Nicole Janeway Bills

Founder of where we help busy professionals ace the Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP) exam and other data-related exams.