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Number: 2007-022-2-020

Title: Recommendations for Codes of Conduct

Task Group
: Graham S. Pearson

Members: Sultan T. Abu-Orabi, Edwin D. Becker, Alastair W. Hay, Jo Husbands, Peter G. Mahaffy, Robert Mathews, Ting-Kueh Soon, Leiv K. Sydnes, Natalia P. Tarasova, Rietje van Dam-Mieras, and Bernard West

To develop recommendations for Codes of Conduct for chemists that might be promulgated by IUPAC and its NAOs.

IUPAC serves to advance the worldwide aspects of the chemical sciences and to contribute to the application of chemistry in the service of humankind. As a scientific, international, non-governmental and objective body, IUPAC addresses many global issues involving the chemical sciences. Adoption of recommendations for guiding principles for codes of conduct by IUPAC would serve to promote the effective and responsible use of chemical sciences.

As there is growing concern that chemicals should be used for good and not for ill, there are responsibilities for those engaged in science and technology using chemicals to ensure that their activities are aimed only at bringing benefit to humankind and to the environment. Their work needs to be, and perceived to be, in compliance with the international treaties and national laws and regulations prohibiting chemical or biological weapons, illicit drugs, and relating to banned and severely restricted chemicals and the environment such as 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.

It is evident that increasing attention is being given around the world to ethical principles and codes and that the new generation of chemists are keen to see consideration of 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 and promote the service of chemistry to society and to global issues.

Guiding principles for a code recommended by IUPAC would recognise the extraordinary benefits to the quality of life, public health and agriculture throughout the world made available by the knowledge, methods and techniques in science and technology using chemicals. It would promote all aspects of chemistry, not just among members of the profession, but increasingly to the worldwide community.

While chemistry can greatly improve the quality of life, we recognize both the potential and power of chemistry, and acknowledge that it should be approached with an appropriate mixture of enthusiasm and sensitivity to social issues. While chemistry 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.

While some principles relating to science and technology using chemicals are codified in international treaties, national legislation, statutes and regulations, guiding principles for a code of conduct recommended by IUPAC is intended to provide guidance to all those using chemicals. These principles would complement other codes at other levels.

In developing the guiding principles, a process of widespread consultation across different cultural perspectives around the world will ensure that the guiding principles for codes recommended by IUPAC are informed by the experience of other professional bodies with codes, including the extensive work in the chemical industry to develop codes such as Responsible Care and the work by UNESCO and ICSU on education and codes.

In order to have an impact on practice, codes need to be dynamic rather than static, and the codes need to be incorporated into a continuing process that is considered prior to each new piece of work. Consideration will be given to how to help ensure that IUPAC can, in the future, engage in processes that help the guiding principles recommended by IUPAC to be embodied in the practice of chemistry.

Nov 2008 - Graham Pearson and Alastair Hay participated in August 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland at the Meeting of Experts of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. IUPAC participation in this BTWC meeting was useful in that it enabled the States Parties to be made aware of what IUPAC had done and is doing that is relevant to the ongoing efforts of the States Parties to the BTWC. Their statement delivered on 21 Aug 2008 is available here [pdf file - 156KB]. The meeting was also useful as it enabled this project chair to gain information on developments in regard to codes of conduct notably by the UNESCO Division of Ethics of Science and Technology as well to meet with other members of this project task group.
A report of that meeting will appear in CI.

Last update: 8 November 2008

<project announcement published in Chem. Int. Jan-Feb 2008 >


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