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/.
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.
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/
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.
On 27 October, I gave a keynote lecture on Responsible Research and Innovation during an info session on EU-Brazilian research cooperation organised at PUCRS in Porto Alegre, Brazil. RRI encompasses innovative solutions addressing the following problem. National governments may formally have the responsibility to protect the safety, security and rights of their citizens. However, no government on its own has the capabilities to take this responsibility. A common responsibility should be developed, with the contributions of governments, researchers, industry, civil society organisations and other citizens. Projects including Nano2All are testing new ways to put this common responsibility into practice. This event was part of the INCOBRA project: https://www.incobra.eu/. Info: www.nano2all.eu
Nanomedicine offers many potential solutions for healthcare, but also raises possible risks and biomedical ethical issues. EthicSchool raises the awareness of professionals working with nanomedicine about these dilemmas. This helps in co-creation of responsible research and innovation together with stakeholders. Info: http://ethicschool.nl/_files/EthicSchool%20nanomedicine%20module.pdf
A new Biosecurity Module has just been added to the current offer of in-company training on responsible innovation. EthicSchool can train life science professionals employed by companies and organisations confronted with biosecurity issues, on how to handle related ethical dilemmas. The training has recently been tested during the seminar on dual use export control at ISTC in Astana, Kazakhstan, 12-13 October 2017. Download the flyer with more information here: http://www.ethicschool.nl/_files/EthicSchool%20biosecurity%20module.pdf
I presented “Do-It-Yourself Ethics of Dual Use Technologies” during a seminar on dual use export controls at the ISTC in Astana, Kazakhstan, 12-13 October 2017. Rapid progress in science and technology which could be misused for weapons of mass destruction may escape the current international regulatory regime as laid down in arms control and dual use export control treaties. To fill potential gaps in legislation, codes of conduct and other forms of self-regulation have been proposed, addressing biosecurity and other dual use issues. Recent controversies including the discussion on Gain of Function research reveal the difficulties in balancing security and freedom. After a brief introduction of DIY Ethics of science and technology and the state of the art in codes of conduct for dual use technologies, the cases of H5N1 avian influenza research and of drones were discussed with the participants, highlighting dilemmas in implementing export control regulation in Dual Use Research of Concern. The presentation was well-received and raised some discussion about the relationship of ethics, formal laws and international politics. This seminar marked the start of a new project supported by the European Union, aiming to build capacity for export controls of dual use goods in Central Asia. http://www.istc.int/en/article/20066
Today, the Dutch newspaper TROUW published my contribution to the discussion about science in the Netherlands. I respond to a recent publication by professors José van Dijck and Wim van Saarloos of the KNAW, pleading for more public investment in research at universities. In my view, there are more well-educated scientists, even with a PhD, outside universities than inside. Therefore, the KNAW should focus on stimulating all researchers to contribute to solutions for grand societal challenges including ageing, climate change and armed conflicts, rather than defending universities. Info: https://www.trouw.nl/opinie/ook-buiten-de-universiteit-is-wetenschap~a2bdf1c9/
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
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.
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
The Journal Environment, Systems and Decisions just published “Comparing mental models of prospective users of the Sustainable Nanotechnology Decision Support System”, by Ineke Malsch and colleagues of the project Sustainable Nanotechnologies (www.sun-fp7.eu). Mental modelling analysis can be a valuable tool in understanding and bridging cognitive values in multi-stakeholders’ communities. It is especially true in situation of emerging risks where significant uncertainty and competing objectives could result in significant difference in stakeholder perspective on the use of new materials and technologies. This paper presents a mental modelling study performed among prospective users of an innovative decision support system for safe and sustainable development of nano-enabled products (SUNDS). These users included representatives of industry and regulators, as well as several insurance specialists and researchers. We present methodology and tools for comparing stakeholder views and objectives in the context of developing a decision support system. View online: http://rdcu.be/txoX
On 22 May 2017, Paulo Martins interviewed Ineke Malsch about “Citizens’ Responsibility for Nanotechnology” during the Internet TV programme NanoAlerta: www.nanotecnologiadoavesso.org. The interview highlighted what citizens can contribute to a collective responsibility for governing nanotechnology in society. Citizens can play four roles in responsible innovation: Learn about new technologies; Participate in citizen science projects (e.g. Nano2All www.nano2all.eu); Express an opinion in public dialogue and Consume responsibly.
On 11 May, Ineke Malsch presented what the African Network for Solar Energy (www.ansole.org) can contribute to recruiting talented African young researchers in new Solar Energy projects. She also suggested targeting markets for Renewable Energy in Africa, in addition to Dutch markets. The idea was pitched during the matchmaking event for the Mat4Sus call for proposals by the Dutch research funding council NWO: https://www.nwo.nl/documents/enw/materials-for-sustainability---call-for-proposals
On 12 December 2016, Ineke Malsch gave an overview of international initiatives stimulating dialogue on nanotechnology for water and energy, during the 1st BALEWARE conference in Arusha, Tanzania (www.baleware.org). Reasons for dialogue on science and technology include economic, democratic, societal and ethical concerns. She mentioned a.o. how NANO2ALL (www.nano2all.eu) aims to contribute to a worldwide discussion and shape the future of nanotechnologies. Nanotechnologies could contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on Water and Energy (2015-2030), but may also introduce new risks and unintended consequences. Dialogue is one way to contribute to responsible research and innovation.
Abstract: The article reflects on current international trends in higher education in nanotechnology based on stakeholder discussions held within the EU funded project NanoEIS: Nanotechnology Education for Industry and Society. The discussions with stakeholders reflects on the main issues emerging from this project, that also includes surveys investigating the connection between university education in nanotechnology and the demands of the labour market for personnel with nanotechnology training. The project’s recommendations include a model curriculum for nanoeducation at BSc, MSc and PhD level. The modular organisation of this curriculum increases the opportunities for incorporating elements into current or new nanotechnology courses or as specialisation in disciplinary courses in physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, engineering, etc. Stakeholder comments suggest that there may be interest in developing nanotechnology courses at universities of applied science and in lifelong learning institutions. In addition, university professors in other countries show interest in setting up their own curricula, learning from the best practices in Europe.
Ineke Malsch, Dorota Rutkowska-Zbik, Martin Himly, Costas Kiparissides, Olga Kammona, Bartlomiej Szafran, Iseult Lynch, Frederick Ntow, Paula Queipo Rodriguez, Moshe Talesnik, David Rosenberg, Albert Duschl. Current Trends in Nanoeducation for Industry and Society. In Current BioNanotechnology 2016, vol 2: http://www.eurekaselect.com/node/142765/article/current-trends-in-nanoeducation-for-industry-and-society
Abstract: Protecting workers, consumers and the environment against uncertain risks of manufactured nanomaterials is a global issue. While risk assessment research and risk governance are already well established in Europe and North America, other regions are lagging behind. In Latin America, Brazil has recently joined the EU project on nanoregulation NANoREG and is investing in several projects in nanotoxicology. The situation in other Latin American countries is much more fragmented. The present chapter gives an overview of the current state of the art and future plans in nanosafety research and governance in Latin America based on a bibliometric study, interviews, workshops and literature review that were part of the EU funded project NMP-DeLA: http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/108951_en.html.
Ineke Malsch, Martina Lindorfer, Isabella Wagner, Maria Lima Toivanen (2016) International Cooperation on Nanosafety Between Europe and Latin America. In Springer Series on Innovation, Technology and Knowledge Management. Volume Managing Risks in Nanotechnology. Springer International Publishing Switzerland, 2016 http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319323909
Around 50 people attended the panel session on ‘freedom and security in an age of synthetic biology: challenges, concerns, needs’, chaired by Christopher Coenen, during the conference “Synthetic Biology – Visions of the Future” at NEMO, Amsterdam on 24 June 2016. The panellists presented a wide range of perspectives, including law enforcement, civil society, biology, social science, and industry from both sides of the Atlantic. Ineke Malsch contributed her experience as a volunteer with Pax Christi International since 2001. While several panellists agreed on the need for more oversight and a nuanced balance between freedom and security, adapted to the ever-changing geopolitical circumstances and technological developments, the discussion with the audience revealed deep-rooted differences of opinion on handling of specific cases of Gain of Function research, gene-drives and other recent developments. This calls for a continuation and broadening of this dialogue, to include political and ethical as well as technical and legal aspects. Info: www.synenergene.eu
On 22 May, Ineke Malsch presented her engagement with initiatives targeting solutions for offering clean water to people in developing countries. She in particular discussed the aims of the fact sheet “Nanotechnology Can Help Solve Conflicts over Mining” http://www.ethicschool.nl/_files/NMP-DeLA%20Factsheetmining.pdf developed in the European project www.nmpdela.eu. This was part of the Mass highlighting the Work of Mercy “To give drink to the thirsty” in the Aloysius church. A group discussion of this team afterwards was kicked off by the interview with Bas Hofs on nano-enabled water purification as a long term contribution to United Nations goals for sustainable development: http://www.ethicschool.nl/mediaalbum/viewitem/6/Bas_hofs This encounter between science and faith was well received by the participants.
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
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
On 11 April 2016, Paulo Martins interviewed Ineke Malsch about stakeholder engagement in risk governance of nanomaterials, during the Internet TV programme Nano Alerta. Obstacles for engaging Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are due to pre-existing working relationships between industry, research organisations and government bodies active in risk governance. Other barriers are due to mistrust of the triple helix of government, industry and research bodies fostering innovation among some CSOs. Different reasons why it is important to engage CSOs have been proposed. From a liberal perspective it may seem less important than from a communitarian viewpoint, where citizens are members of civil society associations represented by the corresponding CSOs. Info: www.nanotecnologiadoavesso.org
NanoEthics just published this new article as online first: Ineke Malsch: Communitarian and Subsidiarity Perspectives on Responsible Innovation at a Global Level. Abstract: All stakeholders agree publicly that innovation and governance of emerging technologies should be done responsibly. However, the international debate on who should do what to contribute to this lofty goal is nowhere near a solution. The starting point of this paper is the issue of how and for which reason to engage stakeholders in addition to governments in the international governance of nanotechnology. This article examines the mainly North-American communitarian criticism of political liberalism and the related (mainly European) concept of subsidiarity in order to shed new light on this discussion. The central research question is: Can a communitarian-subsidiarity perspective on the roles of governments, companies and civil society actors that hold a stake in emerging technologies clarify the grounds on which each actor should be expected to contribute to responsible research and innovation at the international level? After selecting some relevant aspects of a communitarian-subsidiarity model for a dialogue society, an analytical framework is proposed. This framework is then applied to the recent international dialogue on responsible governance of nanotechnology. The outcomes of the analysis are compared to the OECD planning guide on public engagement and outreach in nanotechnology, and indicators for monitoring progress in responsible global innovation are suggested. The main contribution of the selected communitarian-subsidiarity perspective is that it offers philosophical grounds for a return of citizens to the driving seat in cooperative international responsible innovation. Link: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11569-015-0234-1
On 29 January, Ineke Malsch explained differences in participation of different types of stakeholders in global governance of nanomaterials to students and young researchers participating in the Sustainable Nanotechnology School in Venice, Italy. Nanotechnology and other emerging technologies tend to escape the control of governments and regulations designed to protect citizens from harm caused by these technologies. This is for two reasons. First, the technologies did not exist at the time when the regulations were drafted and adopted, hence these regulations must be reviewed and adapted regularly to accommodate scientific and technological progress. In the intermediary period between the emergence of the technology and the adoption of legislation, researchers, industry and other stakeholders must cooperate with governments in responsible governance of this technology. Second, science and technology development is an inherently international endeavour that escapes the control of any individual government. To complement and coordinate national regulations, the United Nations is working on an international legislative system, but the democratic oversight of this system remains very inadequate. The presentation started with a concise introduction of some key philosophical and social scientific theories illustrated by discussion of the global dialogue on risk governance of manufactured nanomaterials. This was followed by interactive discussion on a project proposal aiming at participatory safe and sustainable design of a nanoenabled product. The participants were divided in two groups and asked to present their proposal to each other and a jury of school lecturers, resulting in a draw. www.sun-fp7.eu
Applications of microsystems and nanotechnologies for water were discussed during MINAPIM 2015. Jacobus Swart presented NAMITEC project results: nanotechnology for water problems and agrifood. The motivation for the project is to feed the growing population, and to mitigate and prevent environmental disasters (e.g. the recent breaking of a tailings dam in Minas Gerais). The NAMITEC project has been funded in three phases since 2001 until today. The consortium hopes to start the next phase from 2016-2022. The research focused on wireless sensor networks and Integrated Circuit design. Among other achievements, they developed several sensors devices for pressure, humidity, gas, CNT and graphene etc., and an ISFET for measuring pH and for controlling the levels of lead (Pb) in water.
Alba Avila, University of the Andes, Colombia, presented water monitoring in Colombia – a crowdsourcing approach. Water use in Colombia includes 13% in industry including mining. Cyanide and mercury are used to extract metals. Mining includes coal, gold, nickel etc. The extracted amounts vary with the world prices, and are now much higher than in 2003. This leads to increased pollution of rivers, ground and surface water. They make use of crowd sourcing and social networks, through tools that communities can use to monitor water quality to involve users. The monitoring kits measure things like pH, conductivity, water savings, etc. The project is led by Engineers without Borders, working with high school students: www.laligadelagua.com. They have collected 6900 reports from 400 users. In addition to existing solutions, they are developing nanosensors, but communities don’t trust nanotechnology. Therefore, university students have collected fewer reports on mercury levels in field tests.
The MINAPIM 2015 seminar (http://www.suframa.gov.br/MINAPIM/index.cfm) was held 18-19 November 2015 in Manaus, Brazil, as part of the International Fair for the Amazon FIAM (http://www.suframa.gov.br/fiam/). The focus of MINAPIM 2015 was on applications of microsystems and nanotechnology for agrifood, health and environment including nanosafety. Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things were main issues discussed in several presentations. The event, with around 50 participants, was hosted by the Superintendence for the Free Trade Zone of Manaus (SUFRAMA) and the Brazilian representative of the German Fraunhofer Institute.
The final results of the project on Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and New Production Technologies Deployment in Latin American Countries (NMP-DeLA) have been published. This includes the following recent documents: