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The Uppsala Codex

A group of researchers at Uppsala University are behind what is nowadays known as the Uppsala Codex. The codex was formulated in 1984. The researchers, who were from the disciplines of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, law and theology, had been working on ethical issues for a number of years.

Norwegian Bent Natvig was involved in this work. In the wording below he describes his thinking behind the need for such a codex:

Research is an indispensable activity of great significance to mankind – for our understanding of the world, our material conditions, social life and our well-being. Research can contribute to solving the major problems facing humanity, such as the threat of nuclear war, damage to the environment and the uneven distribution of the earth's resources. Moreover, research is justified and valuable as a pure quest for knowledge, and should be conducted in a free and open exchange of methods and findings. However, research may also, either directly or indirectly, aggravate the problems of mankind.

This code of ethics for researchers was developed as a response to growing concern about the applications and consequences of scientific research. The codex is primarily envisaged as a tool for the individual researcher to reflect on the consequences of their research. This is a difficult task because the individual researcher has no control over how the knowledge is used by others. Some of the key points that the Uppsala Codex addresses are given below.

  • Research shall not result in damage to the environment.
  • Research shall not entail a risk to mankind. Neither shall it be arranged so that its consequences conflict with basic human rights.
  • Researchers also have a special responsibility to consider the consequences of their research and convey whether this will be in conflict with the codex.

The Uppsala Codex is partly characterised through the following:

  • The codex is aimed at the individual researcher's responsibility.
  • The codex particularly deals with issues related to ecology and war.
  • The codex is mainly based on negative statements such as "You must not..."
  • The codex explicitly specifies steps that must be taken in cases of ethically questionable research – the duty of disclosure is particularly worth noting.

The full text of the Uppsala Codex can be viewed at (In Swedish)

This article has been translated from Norwegian by Carole Hognestad, Akasie språktjenester AS.