, 3:175 | Cite as

Dual-Use Research Codes of Conduct: Lessons from the Life Sciences

Original Paper


This paper considers multiple meanings of the expression ‘dual use’ and examines lessons to be learned from the life sciences when considering ethical and policy issues associated with the dual-use nature of nanotechnology (and converging technologies). After examining recent controversial dual-use experiments in the life sciences, it considers the potential roles and limitations of science codes of conduct for addressing concerns associated with dual-use science and technology. It concludes that, rather than being essentially associated with voluntary self-governance of the scientific community, codes of conduct should arguably be part of a broader regulatory oversight system.


Ethics Nanoethics Dual use Biological weapons Chemical weapons Mousepox Polio Influenza Codes of conduct Responsibility Science policy Regulation 



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the “Gordon Cain Conference: The Dilemmas of Dual Use”, Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, March 2008. The production of this article was partly supported by a Wellcome Trust Enhancement Award in Biomedical Ethics—“Building a Sustainable Capacity in Dual-Use Bioethics” (Chief Investigators: Malcolm Dando, Simon Whitby, Jim Whitman, Brian Rappert, Judi Sture, and Michael Selgelid). I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for numerous astute editorial suggestions.


  1. 1.
    Annas GJ (2005) American bioethics. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cardellini L (2007) Ronald Hoffmann’s Should’ve: Ethics and science on stage. Chemistry international, 29. Retreived March 9, 2008 from
  3. 3.
    Cello J, Paul AV, Wimmer E (2002) Chemical synthesis of poliovirus cDNA: generation of infectious virus in the absence of natural template. Science 297:1016–1018CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Central Intelligence Agency (2003) The darker bioweapons future. Retreived June 19, 2009 from
  5. 5.
    Dando MR, Rappert B (2005) Codes of conduct for the life sciences: Some insights from UK academia. Briefing Paper No. 16, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford. Retreived 18 October 2009 from
  6. 6.
    Green SK, Taub S, Morin K, Higginson D et al (2006) Guidelines to prevent malevolent use of biomedical research. Camb Q Healthc Ethics 15:432–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Jackson RJ, Ramsay AJ, Christensen CD, Beaton S, Hall DF, Ramshaw IA (2001) Expression of mouse interleukin-4 by a recombinant ectromelia virus suppresses cytolytic lymphocyte responses and overcomes genetic resistance to mousepox. J Virol 75:1205–1210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Jones N (2007) A code of ethics for the life sciences. Sci Eng Ethics 13:25–43Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Joravsky D (1970) The Lysenko affair. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Journal Editors and Authors Group (2003) Uncensored exchange of scientific results. Proc Natl Acad Sci 100:1464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Kitcher P (2001) Science, truth and democracy. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Maurer SM, Lucas KV, Terrell S (2006) From understanding to action: Community-based options for improving safety and security in synthetic biology. University of California, Berkeley Retrieved June 1, 2007 from Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Miller S, Selgelid MJ (2008) Ethical and philosophical consideration of the dual-use dilemma in the biological sciences. Springer, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    National Research Council (2004) Biotechnology research in an age of terrorism. National Academies, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    National Research Council (2006) Globalization, biosecurity, and the future of the life sciences. National Academies, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Rappert B (2007) Codes of conduct and biological weapons: an in-process assessment. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism 5:145–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Samuel GN, Selgelid MJ, Kerridge I (2009) Managing the unimaginable: regulatory responses to the challenges posed by synthetic biology and synthetic genomics. EMBO Reports 10:7–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Schweber S (2000) In the shadow of the bomb: Bethe, Oppenheimer, and the moral responsibility of the scientist. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Selgelid MJ (2007) A tale of two studies. Hastings Cent Rep 37:35–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Somerville MA, Atlas RM (2005) Ethics: a weapon to counter bioterrorism. Science 307:1881–1882CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Tumpey TM, Basler CF, Aguilar PV, Zeng H, Solorzano A, Swayne DE et al (2005) Characterization of the reconstructed 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic virus. Science 310:77–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Weir L, Selgelid MJ (2009) Professionalization as a governance strategy for synthetic biology. Syst Synth Biol 3:91–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE)The Australian National UniversityCanberra ACTAustralia
  2. 2.World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for BioethicsThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.National Centre for BiosecurityThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations