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A Hippocratic Oath for life sciences: a Hippocratic-style oath in the life sciences could help to educate researchers about the dangers of dual-use research

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 21:43 authored by James Revill, Malcolm R Dando
During the final phase of a three-year-long programme to enhance the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), representatives of the States Parties met twice in 2005 “to discuss and promote common understanding and effective action on the content, promulgation, and adoption of codes of conduct for scientists” (United Nations, 2005b). The issue of codes of conduct is becoming increasingly important in the twenty-first century because, as the life sciences continue to advance rapidly, scientists need to be more aware of concerns over the misuse of science and technology. In the words of the Interacademy Panel on International Issues, “…scientific research has created new and unexpected knowledge and technologies that offer unprecedented opportunities to improve human and animal health and environmental conditions. But some science and technology can be used for destructive purposes as well as for constructive purposes. Scientists have a special responsibility when it comes to problems of ‘dual use’ and the misuse of science and technology” (IAP, 2005). After the conclusion of the States Parties' Meeting in December 2005, the BTWC Secretariat stated: “States Parties recognised that codes of conduct can support the [BTWC] in combating present and future threats posed by biological and toxin weapons. States Parties noted that a range of different approaches exist to develop codes of conduct in view of differences in national requirements and circumstances”, and added that “Codes were considered to be most effective if they and their underlying principles are widely known and understood” (United Nations, 2005b).


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