ETHICSCHOOL
Upcoming presentations

Online. NANO2ALL has posted webinars online highlighting dilemmas in responsible innovation in nanotechnology. Info: http://www.nano2all.eu/training

4-5 June 2018. JRC-FTA 2018 conference, Brussel. With partners of Nano2All www.nano2all.eu we organise a hands-on session: “Exploring Nanotechnology strategies with the Scenario Exploration System”. https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/fta2018

25-27 June 2018. S.NET 2018. Maastricht, The Netherlands. http://www.maastrichtsts.nl/snet/ I present “Future Technologies We Want”

Discussing Future Technologies We Want

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/

Future of Rural Health

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/

Building capacity for dual use export control

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.

How gene editing relates to immunity

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

Religious perspectives on bioethics and human rights

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

Decision support for international agreements regulating nanomaterials

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   

Selecting African talents in renewables

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.

Nano World Cancer Day 2018

On 2 February, the annual Nano World Cancer Day will be held in ten countries: Austria, France, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and United Kingdom. This year’s theme is “Nanomedicine: disruptive innovations to beat cancer”. Info: http://www.nwcd.eu/

Public consultation EU research and innovation programme

The European Commission is organising a public consultation on EU funding programmes including the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation after 2020. All citizens are invited to participate until 8 March 2018. Info: https://ec.europa.eu/info/consultations/public-consultation-eu-funds-area-investment-research-innovation-smes-and-single-market_en

Highlights RRI in the Netherlands

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/

Nano2All polls your opinion on nanodilemma

In the latest monthly poll, Nano2All (www.nano2all.eu) solicits your opinion on pre-testing use of nanodrugs. Respond via twitter or via facebook:

https://twitter.com/hashtag/nanodilema?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fnano2all.eu%2F  or https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/nanodilema?source=embed

Funding pause on potential pandemic pathogens lifted

On 19 December 2017, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the lifting of a three-year ban on funding research on potential pandemic pathogens, also known as dual use research of concern, or gain of function research. Proposals that are in principle eligible for NIH-funding must be screened based on the Framework for Guiding Funding Decisions about Proposed Research Involving Enhanced Potential Pandemic Pathogens, issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Info: https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/who-we-are/nih-director/statements/nih-lifts-funding-pause-gain-function-research

Do-it-yourself ethics of sensor networks

I presented a poster on “DIY-ethics of sensor networks” during “the Sense of Contact” on 13 December 2017 at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Increasingly, sensors are integrated in the Internet-of-Things, allowing for the aggregation of big data on the functioning of household electronics including smart meters, fridges, and televisions. Likewise, medical sensors and lifestyle sensors integrated in smart phones contribute to aggregation of health data. These sensors offer benefits to the users, but also raise challenges to privacy, data protection, and security. Three types of solutions are envisaged: technical, legal, and social fixes. I presented a framework for Do-It-Yourself Ethics where stakeholders combine solutions in a common responsibility for ethically sound development of sensor networks in daily life. Info: poster.

Reinforce the Biological Weapons Convention

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

Drones raise ethical dilemmas

Prof. Peter-Paul Verbeek (University of Twente) and Nico Nijenhuis (CEO of Clear Flight Solutions) led a discussion exploring ethical issues raised by the introduction of drones, for high tech industrialists. The structured questionnaire exploring any possible issue raised by drones was used to foster a brainstorm about the specific questions raised by a case where bird-like drones were developed for assisting park rangers in spotting poachers in wildlife reserves in Africa. This tool will be developed further as an instrument for other high-tech companies. The workshop was organised by the top-sector High Tech Systems and Materials in cooperation with the NWO-programme MVI (Responsible Research and Innovation) on 30 November 2017 in Utrecht, NL. Info: https://clearflightsolutions.com/ and https://www.nwo-mvi.nl/

Academic and industrial responsible innovators get down to business

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.

Integrate Social Science and Technology Studies in Natural Science and Technology Education

On 9 November 2017, Prof. Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard University) pleaded for integrating training in social science and technology studies (STS) in higher education of natural scientists and engineers, instead of bioethics. STS was more suitable to raise awareness of societal needs and values held by lay citizens, important for the acceptance of the technologies developed by these scientists. She was the special guest speaker on innovation and ethics invited by the Rathenau Institute in The Hague. Jasanoff presented the contents and context of her recent book “The Ethics of Invention”. The book had originally been solicited by Amnesty International, but during the writing process, this NGO lost interest in it. The presence of a representative of this NGO in the audience offered perspectives for rekindling interest in responsible innovation among its members. Info: www.rathenau.nl and http://books.wwnorton.com/books/The-Ethics-of-Invention/.

Dutch biotechnology stakeholder dialogue continues

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.

New Biosecurity Vulnerability Scan Tool launched

On 2 November 2017, Bureau Biosecurity of RIVM in the Netherlands launched the new online Biosecurity Vulnerability Scan tool, in Dutch and English. This is designed as a structured instrument supporting biosecurity professionals in qualitative assessment of their organisation’s capability for protecting the biosecurity of their life science activities. The tool is complementary to the existing screening level Biosecurity Self-Assessment Toolkit. Info: https://www.biosecurityvulnerabilityscan.nl/

Extractives in Latin America

On 31-10-2017, Pax Christi International, CIDSE and COMECE organised a seminar on “Extractives in Latin America” in Brussels. Martha Ines Romero, Latin America and Caribbean coordinator of Pax Christi discussed how international business including mining was intertwined with violence and infringements on human rights of indigenous people in Latin American countries. She protested the lack of involvement of local communities in public dialogue on mining activities, which tended to be accompanied by corruption, mismanagement and hiring of armed groups. She called on the EU to not just organise dialogue between companies and local communities, but also take initiatives to strengthen the rule of law and protect Human Rights defenders. Pax Christi International has trained local communities in non-violent resistance in 6 Latin American countries.

Mikeas Sanches Gomez of Zodevite in Chiapas, Mexico was the laureate of the Pax Christi International peace prize 2017. She explained the plans of the Mexican government to undertake large scale extractive activities on the territory of the Zoque indigenous community. Many international and Mexican companies were interested in the concessions. Their organisation had developed and translated information materials in the three local languages (Zoque, Spanish and English). They organised a non-violent campaign rejecting the mining activities. They were confronted with intimidation, killing and arrest of community leaders, including Silvia Juarez Juarez who was accused of kidnapping while she was demonstrated not to be in the area where this took place. Zodevite opposed all mining activities which were only serving economic purposes while damaging the environment, health and human rights of the local communities. They wanted to live sustainably in harmony with nature, while they did not believe in ecological mining.

Tove Sovndahl Gant, policy officer indigenous peoples of the EU External Action Service presented international activities to strengthen international treaties protecting human rights of indigenous peoples. She explained the EU’s role in international negotiations on a new binding treaty, and in building capacity in the EU’s partner countries to implement the current UN guiding principles on business and human rights. An EC staff working document issued in October 2016 on the rights of indigenous peoples concluded that the EU has done much good, but that there is room to improve the EU impact and to be much more effective in protecting these rights.

Stefan Reinhold of CIDSE presented the outcome of the open-ended working party meeting on the binding treaty, the week before. While the negotiations were expected to continue in the coming years, he was optimistic about the prospects.

Issues in the discussion were the role of churches in supporting local communities and in offering a platform for dialogue between these communities and mining companies. While such dialogue was not rejected, Martha Ines Romero stressed the need to support local communities, who were in a weaker position and whose rights must be defended unequivocally by churches. Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” and his interventions addressing mining were welcome. Other participants asked what could be done to support the campaign for the binding treaty and about the importance of allowing local communities to express themselves in their native language.

Info: http://www.paxchristi.net/news/pax-christi-international-hosts-latin-american-delegation-advocacy-meetings-eu-brussels/6812#sthash.Nel1GLUR.dpbs

SATORI standardises ethics assessment of research and innovation

The final conference of the SATORI project on 18-19 September 2017 in Brussels featured heated discussion on the CEN Workshop Agreements on ethics assessment of research and innovation, and on best practices for ethics committees. These CWAs are a form of pre-standard, used by CEN to explore the support for formal standards. The CWAs will be valid for three years. These and other deliverables can be downloaded from the website: www.satoriproject.eu

Foresight informs European policy making on robotics

The Scientific and Technological Options Assessment unit (STOA) of the European Parliament explains how its new foresight methodology was used by Parliamentary Committees in its deliberations on robotics and artificial intelligence. The resulting European Parliament resolution on civil law rules on robotics, was adopted on 16 February 2017. Bill Gates and Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller reacted to the proposals, making suggestions about robot taxes.

Info: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2017/603205/EPRS_BRI(2017)603205_EN.pdf

Biosecurity issues of synthetic biology explored

The Committee on Strategies for Identifying and Addressing Biodefense Vulnerabilities Posed by Synthetic Biology of the USA National Academies presented its interim report during a webinar on 22 August 2017. The Committee was asked by the US Department of Defence to develop and deploy a framework for assessing biosecurity threats of recent developments in synthetic biology, and to prioritize options for addressing identified vulnerabilities. The webinar was used to collect feedback from experts and stakeholders on the interim report, which will be used to inform the final report, which is expected by 2018. Info: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/projectview.aspx?key=49835

Make Biosecurity Sustainable

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

Civil society ready to participate in security research

Representatives from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and experts participating in security research funded by the European Union met in Berlin 15-16 September to discuss ways to overcome barriers for CSO participation in such research projects. Currently, the agenda for security research tends to focus on the development of products by large industrial companies, without apparent visible contributions to the overall security of European citizens. Most CSOs campaigning for civil security issues lack the expertise and resources to engage with security research. CSOs are not included in most projects and when they are, their role tends to be marginal. The workshop participants discussed existing barriers as well as desired future solutions, ending up with concrete and detailed suggestions for engagement of CSOs in all stages of the EU Security research cycle, from priority and agenda setting, though project execution, to dissemination and impact assessment. The workshop was organised in the SECUREPART project www.securepart.eu