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Published 4 May 2018

Leading scientific journal formalises ethics standards for human-embryo and stem cell papers

Embryonic stem cell | wikicommons image

The globally renowned journal Nature announced yesterday a new ethics policy regarding the publishing of papers relating to human-embryo and stem-cell research.

Nature is one of the worlds most influential academic journals and is currently ranked as the world’s most cited scientific journal.

The publishing heavyweights yesterday announced the formalisation of a new policy regarding the handling of manuscripts on human-embryo and stem-cell research to more fervently regard the ethical oversights of the work and whether the journal will publish it.

Nature encourages researchers to embrace guidelines agreed upon in 2016 by the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) as the scientists design, execute and report their research. To further encourage researchers to follow these guidelines Nature has identified categories of manuscripts that will require authors to either send an accompanying ethics statement and for especially sensitive manuscripts Nature will consult an ethicist reviewer.

The papers that fall into this category will include papers involving human embryos or gametes, and for clinical studies of cells derived from pluripotent stem cells with the ethics statements to detail the consent process of cell donors and recipients and the ethical oversight of the research.

For the especially sensitive papers, assessment will be carried out by an independent ethicist alongside scientific peer review. This particularly will include, but is not limited to papers relating to genome engineering of human embyros and clinical work with gametes and cells from pluripotent stem cells.

Independent reviews will also be required for manuscripts involved with work where intact human embryos or embryo-like structures are kept alive for 14 days, a critical time period where the embryo may acquire what is known organismal potential (potential to become a viable living organism).

Nature anticipates it will need to revisit its policy as best practices in the stem-cell field shift, driven by advances in science and technology and evolving social norms.

"Nature fully supports an inclusive approach to such discussions, involving broad consultation and dialogue. We hope that our policy complements these efforts by scientists, ethicists, regulators, policymakers and funding agencies."

Further information

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi