Gender equity: current issues, best practice and new ideas
Open access publishing
Statement regarding the conviction of Italian earthquake scientists
Statement on ethics
Statement on scientists’ freedom to work
Statement on biosecurity
Gene technology and GM plants
Stem cells and human cloning
Creationism and intelligent design
The EMCR Forum of the Australian Academy of Science presents a platform of initiatives that can be used in universities, research institutes and laboratories across Australia to ensure that men and women have equal chances to pursue a successful career in science.
The Academy has produced an interim paper and a set of general guiding principles to aid discussion and debate on recent policy changes to encourage the open access publishing of research. The Academy acknowledges that this is a complex and changing area and this interim paper reflects current thinking and will be reviewed again in two years.
The Australian Academy of Science, a fellowship of Australia’s most eminent scientists, wishes to express its concern about the liability apportioned in the case involving six scientists who gave advice prior to the earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009.
Dealing with scientific uncertainty and risk communication is a difficult task. In the case of earthquake prediction, understanding has grown considerably in recent years. Seismologists can forecast regions that are more susceptible to large earthquakes based on broad patterns, but cannot predict the time and precise location of events. The inherent unpredictability of earthquakes makes assessment of short-term risk very difficult and nuances of language in conveying risk can lead to differing interpretations.
The Academy does not have access to information about the Italian case. While the written report of the Court is not expected for some time, it appears clear that it was not the science of earthquake prediction that was on trial. Rather, it was the care taken in delivering the advice that was provided.
The outcome of the trial must be considered in the context of Italian law, and the Academy understands that this outcome is subject to appeal, and that the defendants are free until the appeals process is completed.
The Academy considers the case to be a reminder that while formulating advice based on the best available evidence, scientists must apply due diligence and ensure proper procedures are followed. It also highlights the importance of effective processes to translate scientific evidence and knowledge into public policy and advice.
There are fundamental principles and professional responsibilities for researchers that should be adhered to when undertaking research. The Academy supports the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity and encourages researchers to observe the principles and responsibilities set out in the statement.
The Australian Academy of Science adheres to the principles outlined in The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. It guides institutions and researchers in responsible research practices and promotes integrity in research for researchers. The Code shows how to:
- manage breaches of the Code and allegations of research misconduct
- manage research data and materials
- publish and disseminate research findings, including proper attribution of authorship
- conduct effective peer review and manage conflicts of interest, and
- explains the responsibilities and rights of researchers if they witness research misconduct.
Developed jointly by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Universities Australia, the Code has broad relevance across all research disciplines. It replaces the Joint NHMRC/AVCC Statement and Guidelines on Research Practice (1997).
Compliance with the Code is a prerequisite for receipt of NHMRC funding.
Research involving humans should conform to the principles outlined in the NHMRC's National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Research Involving Humans The 2007 revised National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research was tabled in Parliament on the 28th of March 2007 and replaces the 1999 National Statement. Ethics and ethical principles extend to all spheres of human activity. They apply to our dealings with each other, with animals and the environment.
Research involving animals should conform to the principles outlined in the NHMRC's Animal research ethical issues. The Animal Welfare Committee plays an important role in ensuring that the highest ethical standards apply to NHMRC funded research involving the use of animals for scientific purposes and that the NHMRC addresses relevant animal welfare issues as they evolve or emerge. For a list of various NHMRC guidelines for research involving animals, see: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health_ethics/animal/issues.htm
The Australian Academy of Science is firmly of the view that the interests of the community and the advancement of knowledge is best served by an environment where researchers can put forward views and present data for discussion and scrutiny free from threats of personal or professional harm.
The more controversial the area (such as climate change, evolution, gene technology, stem cells or nuclear power), the more important that any researcher should feel free to argue a case based on evidence without fear of reprisal. We know of examples where prominent researchers have been personally and professionally threatened by individuals and organisations that disagree with their findings and conclusions.
We reiterate our common defence of the principles of academic freedom: any researcher has the right and duty to argue a case based on evidence, because only public discourse and experimental challenge can advance understanding.
The Academy has endorsed the 2005 Inter Academy Panel (IAP) statement on biosecurity. The statement recognises that scientists have an obligation to do no harm, and to take into consideration the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their own activities. As part of the statement, the IAP has developed a set of fundamental principles that scientists can use to formulate new codes of conduct to help avoid the potential misuse of science and technology. The principles address five fundamental issues facing scientists working in the biosciences: awareness, safety and security, education and information, accountability, and oversight.
A full copy of the statement is available from the IAP website
The Academy supports the responsible and ethical use of gene technologies to produce genetically modified plants for use in Australian agriculture.
In its 9 March 2011 submission to the Legislation Review of Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002 and Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002, the Australian Academy of Science again advocated that the existing laws have served Australia well and do not need revision.
The Academy of Science continues to promote public discussion on human stem cell research and restates its position of opposition to cloning 'whole human being' on the basis of safety and general ethical concerns. Since February 1999, the Australian Academy of Science has adopted as its policy the following:
"Human cells, whether derived from cloning techniques, from embryonic stem (ES) cell lines, or from primordial germ cells, should not be precluded from use in approved research activities in cellular and developmental biology…Reproductive cloning to produce human fetuses is unethical and unsafe and should be prohibited.” (Australian Academy of Science (1999) On Human Cloning: A position statement)
More than 70,000 scientists and science teachers are represented in an open letter warning that 'intelligent design' should not be taught in school science classes. Intelligent design is the proposal that certain aspects of the universe, including living things, can be best explained by an intelligent cause, rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.
Science Policy Manager
Dr Martin Callinan
Phone: +61 2 6201 9458
Mobile: 0417 209 425