Jeff Kovac, professor of chemistry, is to give a talk about “Ethics of chemical weapon research” in the upcoming American Chemical Society National Conference in Denver, CO, from March 22 to 26. His talk is highlighted on C&EN web site as part of “Denver National Meeting Mania“. A C&EN must see presenter, Kovac will give the talk on Tuesday, March 24 from 3:45 to 4:15pm in Tower Court D at Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel.
Throughout history the use of chemical weapons in warfare has been controversial. The morality of chemical weapons research is similarly controversial because several potentially conflicting obligations and codes of ethics impact the decision of the individual chemist as to whether to participate in such research. In this presentation I will discuss the complex ethical questions surrounding chemical weapons research. All chemists are members of a national community with the obligations of citizenship, but they are also professionals subject to a code of ethics. Of course, they are also members of the human community and consequently subject to the more or less universal common morality. Membership in a religious community might also add moral restraints. A key question for chemists is whether the current code of ethics can provide adequate guidance in trying to deal with this complex issue.