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February 14, 2008

European Commission Adopts Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Research

Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 8, 2008, the European Commission (EC) announced the adoption of a code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies (N&N) research. The EC recommends that member states adopt codes of conduct to govern N&N research.  The EC code of conduct is based on seven general principles that address issues such as sustainability, precaution, inclusiveness, and accountability. The code of conduct also provides guidelines that implement these principles under good governance of research; due respect of precaution; and dissemination and monitoring of the code of conduct. The EC invites member states to take concrete action involving universities, research institutes, and companies for the safe development and use of nanotechnologies.

The seven principles are:

  1. Meaning:  N&N research activities should be comprehensible to the public.  They should respect fundamental rights and be conducted in the interest of the well-being of individuals and society in their design, implementation, dissemination, and use.
  2. Sustainability:  N&N research activities should be safe, ethical, and contribute to sustainable development.  They should not harm or threaten people, animals, plants, or the environment, at present or in the future.
  3. Precaution:  N&N research activities should be conducted in accordance with the precautionary principle, anticipating potential environmental, health, and safety impacts of N&N outcomes and taking due precautions, proportional to the level of protection, while encouraging progress for the benefit of society and the environment.
  4. Inclusiveness:  Governance of N&N research activities should be guided by the principles of openness to all stakeholders, transparency, and respect for the legitimate right of access to information.  It should allow the participation in decision-making processes of all stakeholders involved in or concerned by N&N research activities.
  5. Excellence:  N&N research activities should meet the best scientific standards, including integrity of research and good laboratory practices.
  6. Innovation:  Governance of N&N research activities should encourage maximum creativity, flexibility, and planning ability for innovation and growth.
  7. Accountability:  Researchers and research organizations should remain accountable for the social, environmental, and human health impacts of their work.