Synthetic Biology is a subject and a trade in which the researcher is facing a growing number of questions on a daily basis. Working in the development of technology that uses the very building blocks of nature in order to enable humankind to manipulate its surroundings, maybe even itself in an entirely new way, holds issues which need to be addressed. Synthetic biology carries the inherent risk to interfere with life itself on many levels – it is a vital part of the self-conception of the modern scientist that this imposes great responsibility on the part of the researcher. In order to make an informed decision, said researcher must rely on data gathered by the scientific community. Thus a common concept of good research and professional behavior is indispensable.
The SynBio Oath is meant to express for oneself as well as to society the principles on which ethical, beneficial and safe research is conducted: Every researcher is responsible for his own work, but the implications of SynBio go beyond an individual, therefore to take the oath must be a personal commitment and independent from corporate and ideological structures. It reflects the intention to gather genuine information just like one must expect every other scientist to do, and puts into words a pride in one's profession that does not allow for vanity or greed.
To give the oath more substance and to better connect scientists with each other, it is backed by a community of peers who ensure the keeping of their principles and further promote the oath and the ideas it stands for among life scientists.
I know I don't know everything.
I learn from nature and will make use of the knowledge gained responsibly.
I respect all living systems, their complexity and dynamics and recognize my responsibility towards them.
I recognize the power of synthetic biology and will apply it for the benefit of humankind.
I oppose the use of synthetic biology to develop weapons.
I strive to improve public understanding of the methods, results and implications of synthetic biology, its appropriate application, and potential consequences.
I carefully listen to concerns and questions expressed by the public or members of the community and respond honestly.
I emphasize the open sharing of ideas, knowledge and data.
I adhere to local law.
I adopt established scientific procedures and safe practices.
I will never allow financial gain, competitiveness, or ambition cloud my judgment in the conduct of ethical research and scholarship.
I faithfully transmit this code and the ethical principles upon which it is based to all who are or may become engaged in the conduct of life science.
The structure of the community:
The idea of a community of life scientists is, to guarantee the adherence to the code by the members and thus give it credibility and to make it be more than just words.
The community will be decentralized all over the world. There is no official organ for the community. It is held together by personal contacts among the individual members.
Everyone with a serious intention to engage in life science can be taken up into the community.
To take the SynBio Oath, makes you a member of the community.
For becoming a member of the community, your oath has to be administered by two members of the community to ensure the oath is taken seriously. The oath can be taken verbally or by signing a declaration. This has to be witnessed by the two other members. To these members you need to name your identity, field of life science activity and workplace.
Members are asked to point out to public that the oath has been taken (e.g. on a website). This gives the oath a greater impact and more credibility in society.
The community members are primarily liable to their own conscience, to other community members and to local law.
Members are asked to be honest and treat others respectfully.
The community members will facilitate and encourage free knowledge and information exchange, as well as international contacts, among biologists and with the public.
Members are encouraged to visit, learn from, and to teach one another on a regular basis in order to improve their work in accordance to the oath.
Periodic meetings will be held to discuss new developments in the field important to the community. Their decisions will be shared among all community members. The meetings can be physical or via internet.