The Academy of Toxicological Sciences (ATS) was established in 1981 to assure, through in-depth peer review of professional qualifications of toxicology practitioners, high quality, objective, and unbiased understanding and interpretation of toxicity data developed for the protection of public health ATS was created for the purpose of creating a system for recognizing the qualifications of both generators and interpreters of databases related to the toxicity and safety of chemical substances. ATS certifies toxicologists who are internationally identifiable, based on peer-review by a Board of Directors, and who exemplify a high standard of qualifications in the field. Thus, ATS, through a deliberate peer-review process of credentials, ATS ensuring a high standard of professional experience and practice for toxicology professionals engaged in the generation and translation of toxicology data and information to protection of human health.

Founding of the Academy

In 1981, regulatory toxicology, and to some extent, scientific inquiry, was experiencing difficulties because instances of fraud in industry and academia created a crisis of confidence. A revolution in professional societies ensued regarding development of “Codes of Ethics” and “Professional Standards”, elements that were considered inherent prior to this upheaval. The overall result was, among other things, requirements for national and international “Good Laboratory Practices,” or as more commonly identified, “GLP’s.”

Certification for toxicologists was not generally considered necessary before this event. Until then, the only “Certified” or “Boarded” participants in the drug development process were the “Board Certified Veterinary Pathologists.” The first draft of the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) GLPs identified that toxicologists and other participants in studies used to support development of a registered pharmaceutical product would need to be certified. Such certification became controversial, and ultimately, this requirement was not included in the final US FDA document. Good Laboratory Practice Regulations; Final Rule. 21 CFR Part 58).

Many experts, particularly in academic areas of toxicology, where regulatory issues were of little interest, considered it inappropriate to have certification by an examination (an approach adopted by the American Board of Toxicology in 1980). Such experts considered such an examination to be demeaning, that they had no qualified peers, and, that society membership and participation identified interested and qualified professionals. It should be noted that this was a time when as many as six letters of recommendation were required for membership in the Society of Toxicology, interviews commonly occurred before membership acceptance in some societies, e.g., the Teratology Society, and there was considerable animosity between academia, government and industry.

The ATS owes its birth to the American College of Toxicology (ACT) because ACT was the first professional society to accept the regulatory needs of toxicologists in industry and government as also relevant to the field. Thus, this peer-review certification, like that conferred by the ATS, was formed in part in reaction to the perceived lack of response of the Society of Toxicology and other professional societies to the ethical issues and environmental concerns that arose in the 1980s.

The following quote is from a June 26, 1980, letter from Dr. Joseph F. Borzelleca, ACT President-Elect, and chairman of the Task Force on Professional Standards, of the American College of Toxicology to Council and documents the beginning of the Academy.

“The rapid development of the science of Toxicology has prompted the need to assure uniformly high standards in the understanding and interpretation of toxicity data developed for the protection of public health. The identification of qualified individuals meeting these high standards is of prime importance. Recognizing this, the President, Dr. Irving Selikoff, has made it one of the highest priorities of the American College of Toxicology. A Task Force was established (roster attached) to address this issue.” Members of this Task Force are identified below.

  • Dr. Joseph F. Borzelleca
  • Dr. Robert P. Giovacchini
  • Dr. Joseph V. Rodricks
  • Dr. Sorell L. Schwartz
  • Dr. Christopher O. Schonwalder
  • Dr. Robert G. Tardiff

Needless to say, Dr. Joseph Borzelleca and the other Task Force members were active in founding the Academy. Although never serving as President, Dr. Borzelleca served as an ATS Councilor for almost 15 years.

Origin of Name

Dr. Bob Tardiff was the one who named the organization, and both Dr. Joe Borzelleca and Dr. Bob Giovacchini endorsed it. The “Academy” was meant to underscore the Scholarship of the organization through its members, and the “Toxicological Sciences” represented Bob’s vision of the recognition of the numerous specialties developing and maturing within the field of toxicology (it also served to counter the view held by some that ATS should be solely for “generalists”).

Use of “Diplomate” vs “Fellow”

Originally, certificates identified those elected to membership as “Diplomates,” but, when this designation became commonly used for many certifications, some of which did not include peer-review, the title was changed to “Fellow.” This occurred primarily at the suggestion of Dr. Arthur Furst, one of the first individuals certified and at the time, a member of the ATS Board of Directors, when Dr. Don Gardner was President.

Official Form for Identification

Several different identification forms have been used, and it was recognized that standardization was needed in order to ensure recognition. In a board meeting in 2000, it was officially recommended (and discussed at the ensuing annual meeting) that there were two possible forms for use: 1) Fellow, ATS; and 2) F.A.T.S. (with periods after each letter). This information was distributed to all Fellows along with the membership list. That designation was changed in 2013 to simply “ATS.”