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IAP-Statement on Biosecurity: International scientists pledge to do no harm

21.12.2005


"Scientists have an obligation to do no harm", according to the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP), a global network of science academies that includes the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities, which has recently published a set of principles, to be taken into account when formulating codes of conduct. The IAP statement on biosecurity is being issued prior to the Meeting of States Parties of the Biological Weapons Convention which was held in December, it has been endorsed by over 60 national science academies since the Meeting of Experts which took place in June 2005.



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

Prof. Gerhard Gottschalk, President of the Union, said: "The threat from biological weapons is again a live issue. This statement, endorsed by 68 of the world’s national academies of sciences 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 of their responsibility. 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. 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 these technologies 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 Union of the German Academies of Sciences is also member of the International Amaldi-Conference, which is supported by numerous academies of sciences and humanities and by learned societies throughout the world and which is an international forum of scientists working on questions of disarmement and global security.

The full text of the IAP biosecurity statement, along with the names of national science academies that have endorsed it, is included below.

1. The InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP) is a global network of the world’s science academies, launched in 1993. Its primary goal is to help member academies work together to advise citizens and public officials on the scientific aspects of critical global issues. IAP is particularly interested in assisting young and small academies achieve these goals and, through the communication links and networks created by IAP activities, all academies will be able to raise both their public profile among citizens and their influence among policy makers.

2. The Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities is an association of seven academies of sciences and humanities that have joined together to achieve their common goals. It assembles more than 1.600 scientists and academics who are outstanding representatives of their disciplines, both nationally and internationally, and whose work covers a braod range of subject areas. They have joined forces to promote scientific exchange, excellent research, and the emergence of new talent in science and the humanities.

For further information contact:

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Gottschalk, President of the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities, Phone: 0551 / 394041 or 0172 / 563 86 11, Fax: 0551/394195, E.-Mail: ggottsc@gwdg.de

IAP STATEMENT ON BIOSECURITY

In recent decades 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.

The 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention reinforced the international norm prohibiting biological weapons, stating in its provisions that "each state party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain: microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic or other peaceful purposes." Nevertheless, the threat from biological weapons is again a live issue. This statement presents principles to guide individual scientists and local scientific communities that may wish to define a code of conduct for their own use.

These principles represent fundamental issues that should be taken into account when formulating codes of conduct. They are not intended to be a comprehensive list of considerations.

1. Awareness. Scientists have an obligation to do no harm. They should always take into consideration the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their own activities. They should therefore:

o always bear in mind the potential consequences - possibly harmful - of their research and recognize that individual good conscience does not justify ignoring the possible misuse of their scientific endeavour;
o refuse to undertake research that has only harmful consequences for humankind.

2. Safety and Security. Scientists working with agents such as pathogenic organisms or dangerous toxins have a responsibility to use good, safe and secure laboratory procedures, whether codified by law or common practice.

3. Education and Information. Scientists should be aware of, disseminate information about and teach national and international laws and regulations, as well as policies and principles aimed at preventing the misuse of biological research.

4. Accountability. Scientists who become aware of activities that violate the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention or international customary law should raise their concerns with appropriate people, authorities and agencies.

5. Oversight. Scientists with responsibility for oversight of research or for evaluation of projects or publications should promote adherence to these principles by those under their control, supervision or evaluation and act as role models in this regard.

These principles have been endorsed by the following national academies of science, working through the InterAcademy Panel:

o Academia de Ciencias de Cuba
o Academia de Ciencias Físicas, Matemáticas y Naturales de Venezuela
o Academia Mexicana de Ciencias
o Academia Nacional de Ciencias del Peru
o Academia Sinica, China Taiwan
o Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
o Académie des Sciences, France
o Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand
o Academy of Athens, Greece
o Academy of Science of South Africa
o Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina
o Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
o Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt
o Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco
o Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Italy
o African Academy of Sciences
o Akademi Sains Malaysia
o Albanian Academy of Sciences
o Australian Academy of Science
o Austrian Academy of Sciences
o Bangladesh Academy of Sciences
o Brazilian Academy of Sciences
o Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
o Cameroon Academy of Sciences
o Chinese Academy of Sciences
o Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences
o Council of the Swiss Scientific Academies
o Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences
o Estonian Academy of Sciences
o Hungarian Academy of Sciences
o Indian National Science Academy
o Indonesian Academy of Sciences
o Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
o Kenya National Academy of Sciences
o Latvian Academy of Sciences
o Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
o Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts
o National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences, Argentina
o National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines
o National Academy of Sciences of Belarus
o National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic
o Nigerian Academy of Sciences
o Pakistan Academy of Sciences
o Palestine Academy for Science and Technology
o Polska Akademia Nauk, Poland
o Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of Spain
o Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
o Royal Irish Academy
o Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
o Russian Academy of Sciences
o Science Council of Japan
o Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
o Singapore National Academy of Sciences
o Slovak Academy of Sciences
o Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
o The Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters
o The National Academy of Sciences of Armenia
o The National Academy of Sciences, The Republic of Korea
o The Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium
o The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
o The Royal Society of Canada
o The Royal Society, UK
o The Uganda National Academy of Sciences
o Turkish Academy of Sciences
o TWAS, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World
o Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities
o US National Academy of Sciences
o Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences

The Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities is an association of seven academies of sciences and humanities that have joined together to achieve their common goals. It assembles more than 1600 scientists and academics who are outstanding representatives of their disciplines, both nationally and internationally, and whose work covers a broad range of subject areas. They have joined forces to promote scientific exchange, high quality research, and the emergence of new talent in science and the humanities.

The Union coordinates the so-called "Academies’ Programme", one of the Federal Republic’s most important and most comprehensive research programmes in the fields of cultural studies and the humanities. Thus, the Union is responsible for the coordination and the carrying out of joint research projects of its member academies. It advises on the setting of research priorities in related projects, promotes the exchange of information and experience between academies, and engages in public relations work. Furthermore, the Union represents the German academies of sciences and humanities abroad, and sends delegates to national and international science organisations.

Academies of sciences and humanities of the German language area actually began to cooperate in a systematic manner more than a hundred years ago, forming the so-called "Cartel" at Leipzig in 1893. The Cartel was intended to supervise joint research projects of its member academies.

UNION DER DEUTSCHEN AKADEMIEN
DER WISSENSCHAFTEN
Leitung Büro Berlin /
Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Myriam Hönig
Markgrafenstr. 37 - 10117 Berlin
Fon/Fax 030 20 63 29 -65 / -67
hoenig@akademienunion-berlin.de

Myriam Hönig | idw
Further information:
http://www.akademienunion.de

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