Board of Editors in the Life Sciences
Code of Ethics

Approved on October 9, 2016 by the BELS Board of Directors
Updated and approved on January 17, 2024


The Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) administers a certification program to editors in the life sciences through examinations and confers credentials on those who pass the examinations. The program is designed to establish a standard of proficiency in life-sciences editing. The examinations cover knowledge, skills, and abilities essential to the profession, including ethics. The work of editors in the life sciences involves content that is communicated to various scientific, clinical, professional, and consumer audiences. Certified editors who use the credentials are expected to conduct themselves according to all relevant professional and ethical standards in their work to maintain and advance the honor and dignity of the profession.

Principle 1.

Editors in the life sciences should understand and observe all regulations, standards, and statutes pertinent to the materials they review or edit and any tools they use in their work.

Principle 2.

Editors in the life sciences should maintain and apply objectivity, accuracy, fair balance, accessibility, and transparency in their work, regardless of the medium, format, or purpose of the information and materials.

Principle 3.

Editors in the life sciences should make every reasonable effort to avoid or prevent the communication of incorrect or misleading information in the materials they review or edit by communicating clearly and thoroughly the issues or concerns that they identify and the changes that they recommend.

Principle 4.

Editors in the life sciences should be diligent and thorough in their work and should ensure that the final edited product meets the terms of the assignment or agreement under which the work was completed.

Principle 5.

Editors in the life sciences should expect and accept fair, reasonable compensation for the work they do. They should honor the terms of any contract or agreement into which they enter. In accordance with established best practices in life-sciences publications, acknowledgment for editorial work should be expected in matters of substantive editing or review, such as instances in which the editor guides or shapes the content (rather than just the presentation) of the final work.

Principle 6.

Editors in the life sciences should maintain confidentiality with respect to the materials provided to them. They should not divulge proprietary, nonpublic, patient-related, or otherwise confidential information.

Principle 7.

Editors in the life sciences who have sat for the certification examinations or achieved certification (including volunteer proctors, examiners, and BELS committee members) must not communicate nonpublic information about the examinations, including specific actual or draft questions, internal examination development processes or data, or other information whose communication would jeopardize or violate the security and integrity of the examinations.

Principle 8.

Editors in the life sciences should expand and seek to improve their professional knowledge and editing skills and stay current as practitioners in the profession.

Based in part on the Code of Ethics of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). Accessed June 12, 2016.