Code of Conduct for Scientists
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The 1999 World Conference on Science, jointly organized by UNESCO and the International Council for Science (ICSU) in Budapest (Hungary), devoted special attention to the issue of ethical principles and responsibilities in the practice of science. At the opening session, Joseph Rotblat is his keynote address plainly stated:
    “I hope that this World Conference on Science will finally convince the scientific community that modern science must take human values into account. By adopting the Declaration on Science and the document Science Agenda –Framework for Action, the participants in this Conference commit themselves to taking responsibility for the ethical issues arising from the pursuit of science (…).

    These desiderata should be expressed in an ethical code of conduct for scientists, and formulated in some sort of a Hippocratic Oath. An ethical code of conduct for medical practitioners has been in existence for nearly two and a half millennia. In those days – and still today – the life of a patient was literally in the hands of the doctor and it was essential to ensure that the doctor would wield his power responsibly, with the care of the patient being his foremost duty. Hence the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors when they qualify.

    Nowadays, scientists can be said to have acquired a somewhat similar role in relation to humanity. The time has thus come for some kind of oath, or pledge, to be taken by scientists when receiving a degree in science. At the least, it would have an important symbolic value, but it might also generate awareness and stimulate thinking on the wider issues among young scientists.”

The 169th session of the Executive Board decided to request the Director-General “to prepare a study, in cooperation with the International Council for Science (ICSU), on the advisability of elaborating an international declaration on science ethics concerning an ethical code of conduct for scientists (169 EX/Decision 3.6.1).


The major objective of this UNESCO activity is to take up the challenge formulated by the United Nations and the World Conference on Science and to explore the feasibility of a Code of Conduct for Scientists, in order to request at the 33rd General Conference (2005) a mandate from UNESCO Member States to prepare a Declaration (including an Oath or pledge) in this area by 2007.

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