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Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences presents Biosecurity Code of Conduct

The Netherlands is one of the first countries in the world to have adopted a Code of Conduct for Biosecurity. The code is intended to raise awareness among scientists of the potential misuse of their research.

It was drawn up by the Biosecurity Workgroup, which was inaugurated for this purpose by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The code was presented to Mr Renk Roborgh, the director-general for Higher Education, Vocational Education and Science at the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, on 22 October 2007.

The potential misuse of biological knowledge and materials has been an increasingly important topic on the international agenda for the past six years. The InterAcademy Panel (IAP), a global network of science academies, has drawn up guidelines for drafting a Biosecurity Code of Conduct for scientists. In 2005, this resulted in a statement endorsed by 68 science academies worldwide.

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences commenced developing a national biosecurity code of conduct for research and teaching organisations in 2006, at the request of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. The code defines responsibilities and terms of reference for governance and sanctions. Because a code of conduct is useful only if it reflects scientific practice, members of the scientific community and representatives of business and government were directly involved in developing the code from the very start, as members of a liaison group.

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The publication of a code of conduct for researchers, teachers and students in the biosciences signals the end of the first phase of the Biosecurity project. In order to encourage adherence to the code in everyday practice, the Academy is discussing a follow-up programme with the Ministry. Debates, workshops and publicity will serve to publicise the code among scientists and ensure long-term awareness of the issue of biosecurity.

The Biosecurity Workgroup that drafted the code was headed by Prof. Lous van Vloten-Doting (Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and Green Knowledge Cooperative). The other members were Prof. Stuart Blume, professor of Science Dynamics (Amsterdam University), Prof. Pedro Crous, director of the Fungal Biodiversity Centre (CBS-KNAW), and Prof. Lex van der Eb, chairman of the Academy's Animal Trials and Biotechnology Committee (CDB). The workgroup's secretary was Dr Koos van der Bruggen.

Prof. Jos van der Meer, member of the Academy's Executive Board, presented the code to Mr Renk Roborgh on 22 October.

A Code of Conduct for Biosecurity - Report by the Biosecurity Workgroup can be ordered or downloaded as a PDF file from the KNAW website.

Jacqueline Maenhout | alfa
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