The individual and collective roles scientists can play in strengthening international treaties

19 April 2004

This paper has been produced for the United Nations Foundation, Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and National Academies peer review round table on biological threats to security, held in Washington DC, on 19 April 2004. The major ideas from the papers and discussion at this meeting will be used to inform the United Nation Secretary Generals High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.  

The key points made in the paper are:

  • It is essential to support international agreements, such as the Biological Weapons Convention, through the formation of international scientific advisory panels to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advance in the relevant sciences.
  • The research community must exercise judgement in the publication of their work and raise awareness of the ethical and legal requirements related to their research.
  • There should be a clear objective of moving towards an international consensus on adopting appropriate codes of good practice, particularly in relation to their role in combating the diversion of science advances into activities that pose a threat to global security and peace.
  • The existing legal constraints relating specifically to biological weapons development both nationally and internationally should be examined and consideration given to what needs to be done to strengthen such laws and how they can be built in to an enforceable code of practice.