This code of conduct is based on the code of conduct of the American Society of Toxicology (SOT), adopted by the board of the Netherlands Society of Toxicology (NVT) on January 14, 2013. Following the Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie van Wetenschappen (KNAW, the Academy) proposal for a new Dutch Code of Conduct for Scientific Integrity, and after consultation of the members of the NVT during the business meeting on May 31, 2018, the NVT board adapted on September 17, 2018 the Code of Conduct. During the board meeting of November 15, 2021 it was decided to include a sentence on plagiarism in Code of Conduct, which was approved by the members of the NVT during the business meeting on May 24, 2022.
The toxicology focuses on studying the harmful effects of chemicals, physical and biological agents on living organisms, with the aim to assess the risks of exposure to these substances for humans, animals and the environment and to advise on measures to minimize adverse effects. The toxicology is an interdisciplinary between the medical, biological and chemical fields of science. The task of toxicologists includes acquiring and transferring scientific knowledge and technical understanding of the toxicology and apply them.
The aim of the members of the Netherlands Society of Toxicology to act in a morally correct and socially responsible manner in their professional practice, thereby exerting a positive influence on society. This sentiment is reflected in Article 3 of the Statute of the Netherlands Society of Toxicology: "To promote understanding of the various aspects of toxicology aimed at protecting people and the environment".
This objective can be realised by:
- improving communication between toxicologists and promote exchange of information among researchers;
- maintaining contacts with international toxicological organisations;
- the promotion of toxicological research in general, and in particular the developing and supporting initiatives that can have a stimulating effect in the areas of toxicology where there is an urgent need for knowledge and understanding;
- promoting education in toxicology;
- dissemination of newly acquired toxicological knowledge.
An elaboration of this objective led to the here presented Code of Conduct (which is an addition to the behavioural directives of the Academy which the Netherlands Society of Toxicology fully supports). These are advisory in nature and are intended to make toxicologists more aware of the consequences of their profession for society and the environment, even if their responsibility is only indirect or partial. Further, they are meant to stimulate toxicologists to good neighbourliness, openness to society and willingness to explain their appeal.
Although toxicologists are no homogenous profession, these guidelines are intended for all members of the Netherlands Society of Toxicology, both direct stakeholders such as researchers, teachers, production staff and technologists, as well as those who are further from the toxicological practice like policy makers and managers.
Many aspects of the responsibility of the toxicologist, such as the responsible use of animals, relations with customers, employers and employees, and compliance with safety and environmental standards are already enshrined in legislation, codes, standards, laws and employment contracts. These issues are not discussed in the guidelines below. Toxicologists may be expected to abide by the law and applicable regulations.
Guidelines for social behaviour
1. Responsibility for an honourable profession
Socially responsible behaviour of the toxicologist begins with an honest profession. Therefore, he/she in his/her related to the toxicology, shall always strive to act:
- perform only work for which he/she is qualified by training and experience, if necessary supported by specialists;
- always respect the experiences of others as their intellectual property and to recognize the essential contributions of colleagues and employees;
- provide objective information in research proposals and communications as well as truthful presentation of results in reports and publications, including in relation to inventions;
- themselves to work for the prevention and combating of all cases of dishonesty and fraud in the profession;
- toxicologist should apply scientific standards and values without compromising example, politics, religion, nationality, gender, race or commercial interests when doing research;
- prevent plagiarism involving copying written words, illustrative material or ideas. All work of the toxicologist, written or otherwise, is expected to be original unless the source is fully acknowledged.
2. Responsibility for the present and future well-being of humans, animals and the environment
The ground-breaking nature of the research in chemistry and toxicology, the needs of future generations and the possibility of harmful effects of chemicals require the toxicologist that he/she:
- is a contribution to the drafting of guidelines and propose measures relating to safe and sustainable production, use, transportation and proper disposal after use of chemical products;
- feels partly responsible for the ultimate consequences of his/her advice, as far as these can be foreseen with regard to society and the environment;
- feels responsible for justifiable use of animals in which the toxicologist is committed to avoid unnecessary use and aims to apply methods to reduce, replace and refine the use of laboratory animals.
3. Responsibility for good communication with society
In addition to liaising with domestic and foreign counterparts in the professional field, the toxicologist has also to contribute to good communication with society. This is important for maintaining a good relation and minimize mutual prejudices.
Teachers are in a unique position to shape this in their dealings with students. Also in other functions toxicologists can, if it lies in their ability and the opportunity arises, contribute by:
- should provide imaging information on the appeal of the toxicologist in laboratories and factories to interested parties such as local residents, schools and interest groups through lectures, interviews, open house, tours and interviews;
- provide timely and fair information about the potential impact on society in the development of new products and the assessment of risks to man and the environment of existing substances;
- with a sense of the social consequences, make a statement on a toxicological point only based on professional knowledge, both at the action for the publicity media and individuals;
- to pay attention to opinions that concern the public life and toxicology.
4. Responsible handling of a moral dilemma
Although moral dilemmas can be of different nature, they have in common that within the workplace a tension exists between the implementation of an assignment or a task, and also the official and accepted rules, codes and laws, or professional integrity, social insight or personal conscience of the toxicologist. To achieve a good balance, it is recommended that the toxicologist:
- applies the precautionary principle. This means that he/she is, to the best knowledge and ability ascertained that the possible risks and adverse effects of a substance when used socially justified by the purpose and expected benefits;
- when a persistent dilemma enters into a conversation with interested colleagues or superiors in the (line) organization, with interests of the parties are respected as much as possible. He can carry on a conversation with the counsellor or authority contained in the organization, where the toxicologist is aware that the scientific debate should not be conducted through the media;
- if desired to contact the board of the NVT for advice or mediation.
Biosecurity Code of Conduct the Academy
As one of the first countries in the world, the Netherlands has a Code of Conduct for Biosecurity. This voluntary code of conduct for researchers aims to raise awareness of the potential risks of abuse of life science research. The code was drawn up by the Working Group on Biosecurity, which for this purpose was established by the Academy and is intended for knowledge and research in the life sciences. The NVT endorses the Code of Conduct for Biosecurity. You can find the code at the Academy's website.