30 No. 1
Recommendations for Codes of Conduct
What obligation does a scientist have to ensure that his/her work is used for the benefit of mankind? That serious question is being asked frequently these days, especially in the biochemical and microbiological communities, where pathogenic organisms can easily be created. Chemists also must consider the ethical implications of their work. Ultimately, each chemist must decide individually how to address such ethical issues, but IUPAC has embarked on a project to provide guiding principles for codes of conduct for chemistry that might be developed locally, nationally, and internationally.
The work of those engaged in science and technology using chemicals needs to be, and perceived to be, in compliance with international treaties, national laws, and regulations prohibiting chemical or biological weapons and illicit drugs. Among the most important of the laws and treaties governing banned and severely restricted chemicals are the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological and Toxin Weapon Convention, the Conventions on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Montreal Protocol, and the Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes.
Increased attention is being given to ethical principles and codes around the world, including initiatives such as those of the UNESCO Division of Ethics of Science and Technology. Furthermore, the new generation of chemists is keen to see ethical and other considerations, such as the environment, taken into account. Guiding principles for a code of conduct would strengthen international chemistry, and help to achieve high standards of excellence and relevance in academic, governmental, and industrial activities. Such a code would also promote the service of chemistry to society and to global issues.
Guiding principles for a code would recognize the extraordinary benefits to the quality of life, public health, and agriculture throughout the world made available by the knowledge, methods, and techniques involving chemicals. It would promote all aspects of chemistry, not just among members of the profession, but increasingly to the worldwide community. While chemistry is central to life and provides many valuable benefits for humankind, it can also raise important ethical issues. These issues can evolve as more development and uses of chemistry occur and guiding principles for a code of conduct would provide a framework within which to consider such issues.
In developing the guiding principles, a process of widespread consultation involving different cultural perspectives from around the world will ensure that the recommended codes are informed by the experience of other professional bodies that have codes, such as the International Council of Chemical Associations, which developed the Responsible Care Global Charter. In addition, UNESCO and ICSU have worked extensively on education and codes.
In order to have an impact on practice, codes need to be dynamic rather than static, and need to be incorporated into a continuing process that is considered prior to each new piece of work. The project team will consider how to ensure that IUPAC can, in the future, engage in processes that help the recommended guiding principles for codes to be embodied in the practice of chemistry.
For more information and comments, contact the Task Group Chair Graham S. Pearson <[email protected]>.
last modified 8 January 2008.
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