Biological scientists could soon be compelled to sign up to an international code of conduct to ensure their discoveries are not exploited for the development of biological weapons.

The radical proposal, put forward last week by the UK's Royal Society, would set out an ethical framework within which all scientists — not just those involved in potentially sensitive areas — would be expected to work.

As well as establishing ground rules for scientists' responsibilities in ensuring their work is not used for the purposes of warfare, it's envisaged the code would also allow for "whistle blowing" on colleagues or bosses.

It's also likely that the code, proposals for which are at a very early stage, will include unspecified penalties for those failing to adhere to its principles.

But the idea has raised questions about whether responsible scientists need a disciplinary code to remind them of their ethical responsibilities and...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?