The upcoming August 2018 issue of the journal NanoEthics features articles discussing the role of the public in responsible research and innovation in nanotechnology and other emerging technologies. The cases studied include a Portuguese engagement workshop organised 10 years ago, nanotechnology in cosmetics and food, and analysis of the relevance of the Frame Reflection Lab method in fostering playful public engagement.
EthicSchool offers strategy setting workshops using the Scenario Exploration System (SES), in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. Guided by a trained game master, 5-12 participants experience the impact of external factors on the feasibility of their innovation strategy with five, ten or fifteen years’ timeframes. In addition, they discover the relevance of cooperation with other stakeholders in achieving common goals. The following versions of the game are already available in English.
- Sustainable Transitions (towards a sustainable EU economy)
- Food Safety and Nutrition
- Nanomedicine, Nanotechnology in Smart Textiles and Nanotechnology in Brain-Computer-Interfaces
EthicSchool offers a complete standard SES-session including the services of a trained Game Master, use of printed game, meeting room and coffee/tea for 350-600 euro excluding VAT (21%), depending on the number of participants (5-12).
N.B.: Printable versions of the SES tool are available free of charge from the JRC under the Creative Commons licence (CC-BY-SA) that lets people use it and transform it.
Lady Torres and Alvaro Duarte Ruiz explain how they trained secondary school teachers to incorporate nanotechnology in their lectures. The results are published in the article: "Nano-Teacher": An Alternative for the Spread of the Concept of Nanomaterials in High School. The article is in Spanish, with an English abstract.
The European Commission consulted stakeholders on the REACH regulatory review 2017, during a workshop in Brussels on 11 June 2018. Many participants commented on opportunities for better integration of the legislation governing chemicals and occupational health and safety. On the positive side, REACH had contributed to improved knowledge about chemicals safety in the industrial value chain through Safety Data Sheets. Transmitting this information into risk assessments should be made more user-friendly for downstream users. The predictability of authorisations of hazardous chemicals should be improved, to enable cooperative projects promoting substitution. The efficiency and proportionality of REACH should be improved, and tools fostering voluntary approach in REACH should be further developed. Companies need a more effective and efficient enforcement to achieve a level playing field. Customs authorities and worker protection authorities have a big role to play. Complementarities between REACH and other relevant legislation must be ensured, and overlap avoided. Representatives of SMEs from different sectors contributed to the discussion. After the final deadline for registrations under REACH, the obligations for SMEs to submit and update dossiers will not stop. Therefore, support for SMES through an SME helpdesk must remain in place. The Commission will take all stakeholder comments into account in future policy making. Info: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/content/second-reach-review-stakeholder-conference_en
On 14 June, I will attend the brokerage market place during the Holland Circular Economy Week in Utrecht. This offers new opportunities for collaboration with international partners aiming for sustainability. Info: https://holland-circular-economy-week.b2match.io/participants/64
Eight participants joined the Nano2All demonstration of the Scenario Exploration System(SES) on Nanomedicine, during the JRC-FTA 2018 conference “Future in the making”, 4-5 June 2018 in Brussels, laying out their strategies for development of nanomedicine in five, ten and fifteen years’ time, in a “co-opetitive” process. Five participants took the roles of a policy maker, a large pharmaceutical company director, two No-Nano activists and a nanoscientist. One journalist reported on the evolution during each round, after which two public voices decided which strategy received most support. The participants gained hands-on experience with the SES-tool, and some said they would use the tool in the future, e.g. to train students. Info: www.nano2all.eu, https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/fta2018 and https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/research/foresight/ses
On Pentecost-Monday, 21 May, I attended the kick-off event of the EU Green Week in Utrecht. The programme featured a wide variety of policy discussions, practical workshops, a sustainable marketplace and green and healthy leisure activities such as a cycling tour. Interviews with the majors of Utrecht and Tirana clarified the dilemmas faced by local policymakers in trying to implement European and international policies for sustainable development. Unfortunately, little room was reserved for questions from the audience, suggesting that the organisers were more interested in educating the public than in engaging in dialogue. The two workshops I attended were showcases of initiatives from local entrepreneurs aiming for green roofs and sustainable fashion, offering little room where the audience could put forward their own concerns or solutions. In addition, I missed critical voices arguing why some promoted solutions were perhaps less ideal than expected. To conclude: the event was informative and motivating for believers in sustainability, but less useful for entrepreneurs wanting to contribute to sustainable development. https://www.eugreenweek.eu/
On 30 April, Paulo Martins interviewed me on central ideas from my book “Future Technologies We Want” during the internet TV programme “Nanotechnology Inside Out”. Info: www.nanotecnologiadoavesso.org and https://www.bol.com/nl/p/future-technologies-we-want/9200000090384460/
The OECD conference on Enhancing Rural Innovation, 9-12 April 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, featured discussion on ten key drivers of rural innovation. I presented some relevant technological trends influencing the “Future of Health”. In addition to some technology push trends including e-health, I highlighted that the future is not deterministic, and that citizen-driven innovation could also influence developments. The main issue in rural healthcare identified by participants in the OECD Ideas Factory on health was that medical professionals don’t want to live and work in rural areas. It is hard to conceive a technological solution for that problem. Info: http://www.oecd.org/rural/rural-development-conference/
With a seminar on dual use export control in Kiev, Ukraine, on 14-15 March 2018, a new capacity building project for professionals and academics was kicked off. I gave a presentation on Do-It-Yourself Ethics of Dual Use Export Control. This project is funded by the European Commission. Other lecturers from Europe and the USA introduced legal, technical and social aspects of dual use nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological technologies and knowledge, and the current international and national legal frameworks governing them. The seminar was hosted by the Science and Technology Centre in Ukraine: www.stcu.int.
On the eve of the 100th anniversary of Wageningen University, the WUR organised a symposium on current research in advanced gene editing systems: ‘CRISPR-Cas, from evolution to revolution’. Keynote speaker Eugene V. Koonin (Head of Research at the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, USA), receives an honorary doctorate during the Dies Natalis on 9 March 2018. Professors Eugene Koonin, John van Oost (WUR) and Niels Geijsen (UU) did their best to explain their highly specialised scientific endeavour which started in 1987 to a mixed audience.
Most notably, there is a great diversity in Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) and CRSPR-associated genes (Cas) systems. Class 1 systems are large and complex, while class 2 systems tend to be smaller and evolve quickly by exchanging genetic material with other organisms and viruses. Worldwide, experts are searching new varieties and trying to develop a comprehensive classification. Several CRISPR-Cas types can be used for gene editing, by deleting or incorporating pieces of DNA in targeted locations of a chromosome. These systems are also the drivers of immunisation of human and other living organisms to viruses and bacteria, and of autoimmune diseases.
A variety of potential benefits is foreseen, including in eradicating diseases such as Malaria and Zika, which are spread by mosquitos, but possibly also in finding cures for genetic diseases. If gene editing is used in the human or animal germline, this induces irreversible changes in the genetic make-up of subsequent generations. These and other uses of gene editing call for wide public dialogue on the ethical dilemmas at stake. Nienke de Graeff, PhD student of bioethicist Annelien Bredenoord (UU) stimulated discussion through some provocative interactive questions. The event offers food for thought for the ongoing stakeholder dialogue on Modern Biotechnology, organised by the ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. On 25 March, Dutch TV programme VPRO-Tegenlicht will feature this discussion on CRISPR-Cas. Info: https://knaw.nl/en/news/calendar/crispr-cas-from-evolution-to-revolution?set_language=en
On 22 February 2018, I attended an online discussion on religious perspectives on bioethics and human rights, tabled by the UNESCO chair on this topic in Rome, Italy. The key question was: Is human rights a western concept? In the discussion between scholars from Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Catholic-Christian perspectives, a distinction was made between formal human rights law and natural law which has much older roots. The former is a modern invention, laid down in UN declarations and conventions after World War II. The latter is common in all religious traditions but tends to be more concerned with community rights than with individual rights. Judgements of individual biomedical ethical cases can differ between the religious and secular traditions. The panel was held to present the book Religious Perspectives on Bioethics and Human Rights, published by Springer in 2017: http://www.springer.com/it/book/9783319584294?wt_mc=ThirdParty.SpringerLink.3.EPR653.About_eBook
NanoEthics accepted the paper exploring novel ways of embedding “Decision support for international agreements regulating nanomaterials” in governance frameworks. This paper was prepared by Ineke Malsch, Martin Mullins, Elena Semenzin, Alex Zabeo, Danail Hristozov, Antonio Marcomini in the project on Sustainable Nanotechnologies (www.sun-fp7.eu). Online first on 27 February 2018: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11569-018-0312-2
The African Network for Solar Energy (ANSOLE) offers matchmaking sessions during ANSOLE events in Africa, allowing companies and research organisations to select qualified candidates for jobs and internships. For example, the ANSOLE DAYS 2018 on 26-31 August 2018, Chiromo Campus, University of Nairobi, Kenya could feature your matchmaking session. Read more here.
The Dutch programme on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) organised its MVI-conference on 19 January 2018 in Utrecht. Academic, governmental, industrial and other participants discussed contributions of RRI to the energy transition and the biobased economy. Through an interactive system, all were invited to brainstorm about questions posed by representatives of Unilever and Thales. Prof Jeroen van den Hoven proudly presented the international impact of the Dutch MVI approach, which has been adopted in the EU (RRI as horizontal priority in H2020), North America (journal Responsible Innovation) and even some Chinese universities. Info: https://www.nwo-mvi.nl/
In the latest monthly poll, Nano2All (www.nano2all.eu) solicits your opinion on pre-testing use of nanodrugs. Respond via twitter or via facebook:
Trevor Griffiths presented the statement by Pax Christi International: “Reinforce the Biological Weapons Convention as cornerstone in the global web of prevention of weapons of mass destruction” during the Meeting on States Parties of this convention in Geneva, 4-8 December 2017. I contributed to the drafting of this statement. Info: http://www.paxchristi.net/news/statement-pax-christi-international-meeting-states-parties-biological-and-toxin-weapons#sthash.jDfW0J1p.dpbs
Industrialists willing to take their responsibility for innovation need suitable key performance indicators for measuring success. These indicators are primarily needed to convince internal investors to support Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), because the return on such investments may not materialise in the short term. This was one outcome of the discussion on RRI in Industry, tabled by the PRISMA project (http://www.rri-prisma.eu/), 20-21 November 2017 in Berlin, Germany. The event featured a meeting of the minds of academics tasked to raise awareness in industry about the six RRI-keys of the European Commission (https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/h2020-section/responsible-research-innovation), and enlightened industrial representatives complaining that their past efforts in responsible innovation had been met with harsh criticism rather than applause in the public domain.
On 7 November 2017, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management organised a conference “Towards Future Proof Biotechnology Policy”, in NEMO, Amsterdam. This was the latest step in a consultation process, initiated in response to the Trend Analysis Biotechnology 2016, published by three advisory bodies in June 2016: http://www.cogem.net/index.cfm/en/background/trend-analysis. After the Dutch government reaction on 12 December 2016, the Second Chamber of the Parliament had called for public dialogue on biotechnology in a motion adopted on 23 February 2017. The ministry has so far organised several stakeholder sessions since June 2017, and consulted the opinions of 150 lay citizens. NEMO Kennislink launched the new interactive website www.biotechnologie.nl to study which values the Dutch public holds in relation to biotechnology. The ministry will report progress in the discussion on modernisation of biotechnology policy to the parliament by beginning of 2018, and is asking stakeholders to sign a declaration of intentions to enter in continuing dialogue about future proof regulations and policies governing biotechnology.
During the Meeting of States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in Geneva, 14-18 December, Pax Christi International called for making the treaty sustainable by embedding it in the global Sustainable Development Goals. These were adopted in September 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly. Info: http://paxchristi.net/document/5354 and http://www.unog.ch/bwc/news