Skip to content
Reports and publications

The roles of codes of conduct in preventing the misuse of scientific research

09 June 2005

This paper outlines the Royal Society's position on the roles of codes of conduct in preventing the misuse of scientific research, building on the Society's previous publications on the subject. This paper also discusses methods that complement codes of conduct in preventing the misuse of science, including training and the extension of existing regulations. Other aspects of scientific conduct, such as scientific fraud and the public responsibilities of scientists, are not addressed in this paper.

The key points made in this paper are as follows.

  • Codes of conduct can help to reduce misuse of science research.
  • The process of producing codes raises awareness amongst the target group and fosters discussion on the potential for misuse.
  • Having a code provides a valuable educational tool for students and employees.
  • The process of defining the code should include extensive consultation with the target groups to ensure that it is workable; it should also increase the number of individuals aware of the issues of concern.
  • It is extremely difficult to list the guiding principles that underpin all scientific work without producing bland and generic statements.
  • There are clear benefits in producing more detailed codes of practice or conduct that concentrate on a specific area of the life sciences and target audience.
  • Many valuable guidelines and principles for the professional conduct of scientists already exist at organisational, national and international level.
  • Introducing extended codes of conduct or practice based on existing health and safety regulations will provide an opportunity for education and training to reinforce these regulations.

Codes of conduct for scientists will be discussed at the June 2005 Meeting of Experts of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). The Society has produced a separate paper on the issues to be discussed at this Meeting.

The Royal Society issued a press release highlighting these papers on 9 June 2005

This paper outlines the Royal Society's position on the roles of codes of conduct in preventing the misuse of scientific research, building on the Society's previous publications on the subject. This paper also discusses methods that complement codes of conduct in preventing the misuse of science, including training and the extension of existing regulations. Other aspects of scientific conduct, such as scientific fraud and the public responsibilities of scientists, are not addressed in this paper.

Related links

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention website

OECD biosecurity codes website

Was this page useful?
Thank you for your feedback
Thank you for your feedback. Please help us improve this page by taking our short survey.