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International Scientists Call To Do No Harm

2 December 2005

International Scientists Call To Do No Harm

Scientists must recognise their obligation to do no harm, according to the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP), a global network of science academies that includes the Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, which has today published a set of principles, to be taken into account when formulating codes of conduct.

The IAP statement on biosecurity is being issued ahead of the Meeting of States Parties of the Biological Weapons Convention which runs from 5 to 9 December, and has been endorsed by over 60 national science academies since the Meeting of Experts which took place in June.

The statement addresses five fundamental issues facing scientists working in the biosciences: awareness; safety and security; education and information; accountability; and oversight.

Professor Carolyn Burns, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand Academy Council, said "The threat from biological weapons is again a live issue. This statement, endorsed by 68 of the world's national academies of science from all regions of the world, is to guide individual scientists in their day-to-day activities and also to act as the basis for codes of conduct developed by scientific communities or institutions."

"Scientists need to be aware. They must always bear in mind the potential consequences of their research and should not ignore the possible misuse of their work by others. They also need to pass on this awareness. Teaching the next generation of scientists about national and international laws and regulations is important. And as part of that, the underlying principles aimed at preventing the misuse of research must also be explained."

Professor Burns continued, "Since the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 1972, scientific research has created new and unexpected knowledge and technologies which have benefited mankind in many ways. But some of this technology can be used for destructive as well as for constructive purposes and that is why getting scientists to think about these principles is so vital."

"The IAP statement is entirely consistent with the Code of Professional Standards and Ethics developed and promoted by the Royal Society of New Zealand for members."


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