Royal Society of New Zealand Code of Professional Standards and Ethics

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Royal Society of New Zealand Code of Professional Standards and Ethics in Science, Technology, and the Humanities

Issued by the Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand on 18 October 2012

Part 1: Preliminary Provisions

1.1 Introduction

  1. The object of the Royal Society of New Zealand is the advancement and promotion in New Zealand of science, technology, and the humanities. For that purpose, the Society is required to establish and administer for members of the Society a Code of Professional Standards and Ethics in Science, Technology, and the Humanities.
  2. Scientists, technologists, and humanities scholars must act ethically and professionally to ensure that public support for work in the areas of science, technology, and the humanities is maintained and enhanced.
  3. Research and investigations in the areas of science, technology, and the humanities, and their application and teaching, must be undertaken with integrity through the use of rigorous methods. Such investigations expand knowledge and it is the responsibility of all members of the Society to ensure that the application of that knowledge conforms to standards acceptable to the wider community.
  4. To this end, all practices and advances in science, technology, and the humanities, and their application and dissemination, must be open to scrutiny and criticism. All members of the Society must strive, in undertaking their work, to ensure that their actions do not detrimentally impact on society, or on the living or physical environment.
  5. To ensure that this is so, all investigations must be undertaken in accordance with all relevant and accepted professional standards and codes of ethics, both those prescribed by legislation and those promulgated by professional bodies.

1.2 Legal status of Code

  1. This Code of Professional Standards and Ethics in Science, Technology, and the Humanities is made pursuant to section 34 of the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997.
  2. This Code replaces all previous codes of professional standards and ethics issued by the Council of the Royal Society.

1.3 Compliance with Code

  1. A member of the Royal Society of New Zealand must comply with this Code. A member whose conduct is considered to be in breach of the provisions of the Code will be asked to account to the Society for their actions.
  2. Breaches of the Code, and complaints about such breaches, may be dealt with by the Society under the Rules for Hearing and Determining Complaints of Breaches of the Royal Society’s Code of Professional Standards and Ethics.
  3. This is a voluntary Code for all other persons involved in science, technology, and the humanities in New Zealand. The Society recommends the provisions to them.

1.4 Structure of the Code

  1. As this Code serves a wide range of individuals and covers an equally wide range of interests and circumstances, it is necessarily written in a general style.
  2. This Code has been structured around general fundamental principles that form the basis of the behaviour expected from members.
  3. Supporting each fundamental principle is a general rule and specific clauses that prescribe aspects of the professional and ethical behaviour expected of members.
  4. In circumstances not specifically covered by the Code, members must have regard to the fundamental principles and should be guided by any similar situations specifically covered by this Code.
  5. This Code is not intended to cover every situation and it is anticipated that members will adapt the fundamental principles to the particular circumstances of their work. It is also expected that members will adhere to ethical requirements placed on them by legislation, regulations, advisory committees, professional bodies and their employer.

1.5 Fundamental principles

This Code is based on eleven fundamental principles of ethical and professional behaviour and conduct. The fundamental principles are:

  1. Integrity and professionalism:
  2. Honesty:
  3. Compliance with the law and relevant standards:
  4. Respect for colleagues:
  5. Respect for communities:
  6. Protection of the well-being and privacy of individuals:
  7. Duty to funders and purchasers of research:
  8. Protection of the welfare of animals:
  9. Protection of the environment:
  10. Continuing education and communication of knowledge:
  11. Appropriate use of genetic information.

Part 2: Principles

2.1 Integrity and professionalism

  1. A member must behave with integrity using their knowledge and skills in a professional manner so as to competently pursue their work.
  2. Consistent with rule 2.1(1), a member must—
    1. endeavour to obtain and present facts and interpretations in an objective and open manner; and
    2. strive to be fair and unbiased in all aspects of their research and in their application of their knowledge in science, technology, or the humanities; and
    3. strive to enhance the reputation of their profession; and
    4. strive not to compromise the health, safety or welfare of the community or of colleagues and others directly associated with science, technology, or the humanities; and
    5. show respect, consideration and courtesy to clients and to the public; and
    6. avoid or declare real or apparent conflicts of interest and document them beforehand whenever possible; and
    7. where appropriate, acknowledge themselves as interested parties in controversies about procedures in science, technology, or the humanities; and
    8. always observe the requirements of specific statutes and/or codes applicable to the work they are to undertake; and
    9. endeavour not to compromise the well being of society or the sustainable use of the natural environment. In instances of conflict, the welfare and the needs of the community must take precedence over responsibilities to clients, colleagues or other interests; and
    10. act in accordance with the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi and, particularly when that work includes investigations which impinge on the New Zealand natural environment, on individual persons and communities or on customs, objects or places of special cultural significance; and
    11. not present themselves as experts outside their areas of expertise.

3.1 Honesty

  1. A member must conduct themselves honestly and with integrity at all times. This applies to dealings with clients, colleagues and the public as well as to ensuring personal integrity in the recording of data, the drawing of conclusions and in other professional actions.
  2. Consistent with rule 3.1(1), a member must—
    1. honestly represent their research goals and intentions to any potential participants in the research process; and
    2. fairly and fully represent their results without falsification or bias; and
    3. fairly record the intellectual, material and practical contributions of others to their work and results; and
    4. ensure that joint authors of publications and reports share responsibility for their contents; and
    5. endeavour to retain all types of research records for a period long enough after publication of the work to allow examination by bona fide critics (two years at a minimum) but archiving the data if possible, and, where commercial sensitivity is not an issue, making them freely available to others (see also rule 4 – respect for colleagues and rule 5 – respect for communities); and
    6. not falsify qualifications or wittingly make other untrue claims of experience; and
    7. not commit plagiarism, or condone acts of plagiarism by others; and
    8. always be scrupulously honest in the application of findings from research and in the transfer of technology to the community wherever it occurs; and
    9. unless commercial considerations indicate otherwise, do all that they can to ensure the earliest possible publication of the results of publicly-funded research; and
    10. ensure that all speculative and interpretive statements in their reports are clearly identified as such.

4.1 Compliance with the law and relevant standards

  1. A member must only claim expertise commensurate with their qualifications and fields of competence and must follow investigative and work practices which conform to recognised national and international standards.
  2. Consistent with rule 4.1(1), a member must—
    1. only represent themselves as experts in their fields of competence as defined by their formal qualifications or other demonstrable experience; and
    2. maintain their technical and general competence in their area of expertise and familiarise themselves with recent national and international advances therein; and
    3. ensure that they make appropriate disclosure of any limitations on proposed work due to insufficient resources or other factors; and
    4. strive to adhere to the requirements of relevant New Zealand legislation and regulations and all appropriate codes of work standards and ethical practice; and
    5. strive to adhere to the codes and disciplinary standards of learned societies and professional bodies of which they are members or by which they are registered; and
    6. have regard to the requirements, work practices and ethical standards of any relevant international organisation (such as the International Council for Science (ICSU)); and
    7. ensure that the highest standard prevails whenever there is any discrepancy or conflict in standards.

5.1 Respect for colleagues

  1. A member must support ethical behaviour and high professional standards in their colleagues and must treat such colleagues with integrity and honesty.
  2. Consistent with rule 5.1(1), a member must—
    1. review the work of colleagues without bias and treat all information gained in such activity as privileged and confidential; and
    2. appropriately acknowledge the work and contributions of colleagues; and
    3. avoid falsely, vexatiously or maliciously attempting to impugn the reputations of colleagues or otherwise compromising or denigrating them in order to achieve commercial, professional or personal advantages; and
    4. support the career development of colleagues by providing honest, unbiased comment on their career prospects, on the conduct of their work or on their proposals, manuscripts and papers; and
    5. encourage and support the development of junior colleagues; and
    6. be aware that in the event of a challenge to a member over his or her past ethical conduct the retention of and ability to produce all the appropriate records may prove to be crucial.

6.1 Respect for communities

  1. A member must endeavour to make the results of their work as widely available to the public as possible and to present those results in an honest, straightforward and unbiased manner.
  2. Consistent with rule 6.1(1), a member must—
    1. endeavour to communicate the results of their work to the wider community without distortion arising from misleading or unjustified simplification or extrapolation; and
    2. endeavour to ensure that all public statements are correct and supported by competent research and/or scholarship; and
    3. ensure that all speculative and interpretative statements are identified as such; and
    4. accept that researchers working on different approaches to a problem may reach different but supportable conclusions within the context of their own research; and
    5. acknowledge that in some instances and in some areas of research their own values may impinge on the way they approach a problem and that different values and paradigms may also have validity; and
    6. avoid attempting to influence public policy in situations where the available evidence is contradictory or inconclusive without making the state of that evidence clear; and
    7. support the publication and dissemination of all competent research even when the conclusions drawn by the authors are contrary to a member’s own opinions or to the currently accepted consensus.

7.1 Protection of the wellbeing and privacy of individuals

  1. A member must ensure that the involvement of people as participants in any proposed research is fully justified by first establishing that there will be potential significant benefits from the research and that these benefits will greatly outweigh any potential harm which may be experienced by the participants.
  2. The interests, safety, well being and dignity of participants must be of paramount concern to a member at all times. The following underlying principles must therefore all be observed in the planning and in the conduct of research:
    1. Informed and voluntary consent:
    2. Respect for privacy and confidentiality:
    3. Minimisation of harm to participants:
    4. Avoidance of unnecessary deception:
    5. Respect for property rights:
    6. Sensitivity to the age, gender, culture, religion and social class of participants.
  3. Research involving human participants must not commence until after it has been approved by an appropriate ethics committee accredited or approved to conduct ethics review. Information on accredited ethics committees and guidelines on ethics in health research in New Zealand can be obtained from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (www.hrc.govt.nz).
  4. A researcher should also comply with any code of ethics developed by their professional associations (e.g. the New Zealand Psychological Society, the Association of Social Science Researchers, the New Zealand Association for Research in Education), and with the requirements of other external bodies (e.g. approval by the Research Access Committee operated by the Department of Child Youth and Family).
  5. A member should be aware that most academic journals require research to have been approved by an ethics committee before it will be published.
  6. Any vested interest in a trial should be disclosed to the institution, the body granting approval, and to participants. Trials involving human participants may have an overseeing committee which is independent of those who may have a vested interest in the outcomes of a trial.
  7. Consistent with rules 7.1(1)–(6), a member must—
    1. ensure that their research with human participants adheres to the requirements of all relevant legislation, these include, the New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990; the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000; the Code of Health and Disability Consumers’ Rights1996; Privacy Act 1993; the Health Information Privacy Code 1994; the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2001; and the Health Research Council Act 1990; and
    2. adhere to the Codes of Ethics and Conduct covering research with human participants which are in place in their institutions as well as with the codes of ethics developed by their professional associations; and
    3. ensure that the information provided to gain consent is adequate and appropriate and that the consent gained is voluntary. A member should be aware that gaining informed and voluntary consent from minors and from those of diminished responsibility is not straightforward and that they should be careful to follow the requirements of any relevant code of ethics; and
    4. ensure that research is stopped and the matter referred to the appropriate authority should any ethical issue that was not envisaged when the research was planned unexpectedly arise and also ensure that the research does not restart until the authority’s approval to do so has been obtained; and
    5. endeavour to ensure that individuals who choose not to participate in a project are not discriminated against by their community or by the researchers and others involved; and
    6. ensure the identity of participants is not disclosed unless they consent otherwise; and
    7. ensure confidentiality of information at all stages of the project unless participants choose otherwise; and
    8. ensure that any overseeing committee has access to trial data as they accumulate so that the committee can assess whether the trial should proceed or be discontinued; and
    9. endeavour to ensure that all research is conducted in accordance with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi by paying proper regard to the rights of individuals and communities in matters of protection, participation and partnership; and
    10. ensure that research they conduct in other countries conforms to the same ethical standards as those pertaining in New Zealand, while also endeavouring to follow local ethical requirements and codes which are compatible with New Zealand standards; and
    11. ensure that there are sufficient protections for participants who may suffer injury as a result of participation in research; in this context, the application of the accident compensation legislation should be considered, or where relevant, appropriate insurance or indemnity cover should be arranged; and
    12. ensure that any vested interest which either the institution, the member personally, or any other member, has in a research project, particularly of a fiduciary kind, is disclosed to the institution, the body granting approval, and to participants.

8.1 Duty to the funders and purchasers of research

  1. A member involved in research, developments, testing or other operations for employers, funding agencies or other paying clients must maintain the high standards expected of all persons involved in science, technology, and the humanities.
  2. When a member undertakes work for employers or other purchasers the interests of these clients normally take priority over other interests but always within the limits imposed by law, by this Code, by accepted ethical standards and by the public interest.
  3. Consistent with rules 8.1(1) and (2), a member must—
    1. exercise initiative, skill and judgement for the benefit of an employer or client; and
    2. endeavour to ensure that clients are aware of the ethical and legal obligations of the person whose services they are purchasing; and
    3. ensure that employers or clients are aware of the general place that publication of research findings plays in the world of science, technology, or the humanities; and
    4. encourage employers and other clients to permit public disclosure of their results unless there are legitimate and lawful reasons for confidentiality but, nevertheless, always respecting that confidentiality when it is legitimately required by the employer or client; and
    5. identify and respect any intellectual property employed within, or arising from, research or other work undertaken for an employer or client; and
    6. accept personal responsibility for all research or associated work undertaken by themselves or under their supervision; and
    7. not accept anything of substantial value from any third party by way of gratuity or personal advantage, nor promise to give anything of such value to any third party; and
    8. within appropriate time-frames, make available to funding agencies an appropriate report on each funded project; and
    9. oppose any manipulation of results to meet the perceived needs or requirements of employers, funding agencies, the media or other clients and interested parties whether this be attempted before or after the relevant data have been obtained; and
    10. not undertake any work which they know will be in conflict with the standards and ethical requirements of this Code.

9.1 Protection of the welfare of animals

  1. A member who is involved in experiments, procedures or tests involving sentient animals must respect and promote the welfare of those animals.
  2. This duty is expressed in the manner in which the animals are treated. Although it is generally accepted that research involving animals contributes to the advancement of knowledge, to improvements in the health and well being of animals as well as humans and in the maintenance of balance and sustainability in ecosystems, any experimental undertaking involving animals, no matter how laudable, must always be ethically acceptable and this means that—
    1. if there are ways of undertaking an investigation or of achieving the results sought without the use of animals these possibilities must be investigated and used unless there are sound reasons to the contrary; and
    2. any harm or distress which will be inflicted on an animal requires full justification and must be clearly outweighed by the realistic benefits likely to accrue from an experiment; and
    3. any harm or distress inflicted on an animal must be minimised as much as possible.
  3. Consistent with rules 9.1(1) and (2), a member must—
    1. first consider alternative methods, not involving animals, of meeting the research, teaching or testing requirements of any investigation; and
    2. undertake their research, teaching or testing in accordance with all institutional and legal requirements and also follow formal published guidelines (e.g. the New Zealand Code of Recommendations and Minimum Standards for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes); and
    3. apply and obtain ethical approval for their work from an appropriate ethical committee and follow the advice and requirements of that committee; and
    4. ensure that the ethical committee considers the need for an overseeing person or committee for each trial and that the committee has ongoing access to experimental data and assesses whether or not a trial should continue; and
    5. endeavour to ensure that their work always adheres to the highest possible standards for the humane treatment of animals such that—
      1. adequate steps are taken to ensure that animals do not suffer unnecessary pain or distress at any time; and
      2. animals are kept under the supervision of an experienced investigator and are housed, fed and cared for to safeguard their health and comfort; and
      3. all animals used in research are legally acquired, retained and used; and
    6. give consideration to the appropriateness of the animal species proposed for any investigation, to the possibility of using less-sentient or non-sentient animals, and to the minimum number needed to meet the required scientific and/or statistical standards; and
    7. use appropriate and approved methods of anaesthesia, analgesia and tranquillisation on animals subjected to invasive procedures; and
    8. seek to make those using animals in research, teaching and testing aware of the need to practise and encourage the highest standards of animal care and welfare; and
    9. be aware that the health and stress levels in animals as well as the level of human interaction with them need to be considered in designing research protocols; and
    10. endeavour to foster an awareness of the importance of animal welfare within the scientific, technological, or humanities professions and within the wider community.

10.1 Protection of the environment

  1. A member must be aware of the need for the sustainable management of the planet’s resources and must seek to minimise any unnecessary adverse environmental impacts on present and/or future generations consequent upon their investigations or upon the applications of their technology. In considering these environmental implications, a member must draw the attention of both decision makers and those to be affected to any environmental impacts of the proposed work and to the perceived immediate and potential consequences which may follow.
  2. Sustainable management is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of succeeding generations to meet the needs of the future.
  3. Consistent with rules 10.1(1) and (2), a member must—
    1. be committed to the efficient use of resources; and
    2. minimise the generation of waste and, where applicable, encourage the environmentally sound re-use, recycling and disposal of waste; and
    3. seek to observe the principles and practices of sustainable management and the needs of future generations both local and international; and
    4. strive to identify the impacts of their work on the environment and on people and communities, endeavour to assess and report on such impacts and seek to avoid or mitigate any adverse effects; and (e) strive to encourage the avoidance or the minimisation of any adverse effects on the environment arising from the application of science, technology, or the humanities; and
    5. pay regard to international resource agreements and protocols and the obligations they may impose on the work of people involved in science, technology, or the humanities; and
    6. encourage an awareness of environmental issues within the science, technology, or humanities professions and among the wider public; and
    7. be aware of their obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and the need to protect areas and places of cultural significance.

11.1 Continuing education and communication of knowledge

  1. A member is expected to continue the development of their skills and knowledge and, when and where appropriate, to communicate their knowledge to the public.
  2. A member in educational and communications settings, whether as a teacher in a formal classroom, as a supervisor of student work, as a mentor to junior colleagues or in dealing more generally with the wider community, must at all times present themselves and their information in an ethical and responsible manner.
  3. The aims of a member must be the advancement of awareness, knowledge and understanding in science, technology, or the humanities. This includes the fostering of informed critical responses to issues relating to science, technology, or the humanities.

12.1 Appropriate use of genetic information

Use and storage of genetic information

  1. The rapid progress in the understanding of the genetic code and in the techniques of using the information contained therein imply that the ethical questions surrounding molecular genetics apply particularly to the guardianship of genetic information, from whatever source, and to the use to which such information is put, rather than to the particular process or technique which is to be applied in its use. The ability to manipulate organisms, as in the processes of “genetic engineering” of bacteria and plants, or in areas of animal and human reproduction such as “cloning” or “assisted fertilisation”, bring these wider ethical matters to the fore.
  2. Given that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) can be extracted from most bodily tissues and can be stored almost indefinitely the collection and storage of DNA, and the data extracted from it by experimentation, need special consideration. Additionally, the methods of disposal of DNA may raise cultural difficulties among some ethnic and/or religious communities. The following comments highlight a number of the consequential issues that require the specific attention of researchers:
    1. Since DNA is a “blueprint” it can be used for purposes other than those for which original consent was given. This is normally unacceptable and specific consent should be sought for all applications:
    2. With the exception of monozygotic twins, DNA is unique to an individual and cannot be made truly unidentifiable:
    3. Inadvertent, and often unwelcome, information may unintentionally arise from genetic research – paternity/non-paternity, unusual family relationships – and such a possibility needs to be anticipated:
    4. Genes and matters of heredity carry with them cultural, spiritual and emotional dimensions. These may give rise to unforeseen difficulties during research or similar investigations if researchers are not cognisant of such dimensions or choose to disregard them:
    5. Ethical considerations apply, at least in part, to all living species and not just to human beings.
  3. The arguments and debate about “genetic engineering” are often not about genetic modification per se but about whether, in any particular circumstance, the projected outcome and the consequences of any side effects are ethically and morally acceptable. In this respect there are strong similarities with environmental issues. In other words, the member involved in genetic modification for a specific purpose must always consider, in a broad context, other possible outcomes.
  4. Consistent with rules 12.1(1)-(3), a member must—
    1. follow with special care and diligence the general responsibilities outlined earlier in this Code to act honestly with integrity and professionalism; and
    2. follow all statutes and codes of practice which apply to the acquisition, the manipulation and the use of genetic information; and
    3. take particular care to secure and appropriately store all genetic information which they acquire in the course of their work; and
    4. note that although DNA can readily be used for purposes other than those for which consent had been given such a course is ethically unacceptable and that specific consents must be sought and obtained for each and every application of the material; and
    5. be aware that since “germline” gene therapy is generally regarded as being unethical because the genetic effects of such therapy are transmitted to subsequent generations, researchers contemplating any experiments of this kind must be especially careful to gain all necessary consents and to consult widely before commencement; and
    6. be always aware that any research into the genome of any indigenous species needs special consideration in New Zealand because of Treaty of Waitangi issues.
  5. Because “genetic engineering” is the current expression in the public domain signifying all aspects of genetic modification an additional statement on responsibilities is included for the guidance of those working with these techniques. This will also assure the public that the Society is aware of the need to ensure that its members act professionally and ethically in all areas of genetic research and development.
  6. The power to genetically modify living organisms lies alongside the power to harness the energy of the atom in placing a special responsibility on those who have the knowledge and skills to do so. It is essential that all members keep firmly in mind the general requirements of this Code of Ethics and that they do nothing that could potentially be detrimental to the community or harmful to the environment.

    Operations involving genetic modification

  7. Consistent with rules 12.1(1)-(6), a member must—
    1. follow the spirit of this Code in striving to ensure that their actions have no detrimental effects on the welfare of humankind; and
    2. before starting their work apply for and gain all necessary approvals from appropriate Government Agencies such as the Environmental Risk Management Authority and national and local Ethics Committees; and
    3. undertake their activities in accordance with all legislative and institutional requirements and follow all specific codes and guidelines appropriate to their investigations; and
    4. keep abreast of on-going research and developments in genetic modification so that they are able, where possible, to select approaches and techniques which contribute to containment and the minimisation of residual risks; and
    5. acknowledge and understand that the public debate about genetic modification has a wide compass and includes ethical, moral and religious dimensions and that Maori concerns about the effect of genetic changes on belief systems, and on the possible exploitation of indigenous knowledge and indigenous flora and fauna, add a further aspect, through the Treaty of Waitangi, to the issues to be considered in New Zealand.