The article examines the role played by policy advice institutions in the governance of ethically controversial new and emerging science and technology in Europe. The empirical analysis, which aims to help close a gap in the literature, focuses on the evolution, role and functioning of national ethics advisory bodies (EABs) in Europe. EABs are expert bodies whose remit is to issue recommendations regarding ethical aspects of new and emerging science and technology. Negative experiences with the impacts of science and technology (...) in the past have resulted in calls for increased transparency and broader participation and pluralism in expert advice and policy decision-making. Do national EABs function as inclusive, anticipatory “hybrid forums”? Or do they resemble more “classical” expert-oriented bodies, inspired by technocratic or decisionist approaches? As part of the empirical analysis of the role and functioning of institutional ethical advisory structures in 32 European countries, an extensive analysis of EAB websites and the content of publicly available documents on such institutions has been carried out, supplemented by an online survey of representatives of the EABs. One major finding of the empirical analysis is the very uneven distribution of “hybrid forum” features of EABs across Europe. (shrink)
The article explores some of the issues that have arisen in the discourse on pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement (PCE), that is, the use of stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate, amphetamine and modafinil by healthy individuals of various populations with the aim of improving cognitive performance. Specifically, we explore the presumed sizes of existing PCE user populations and the policy actions that have been proposed regarding the trend of PCE. We begin with an introductory examination of the academic stances and philosophical issues (...) involved in defining PCE. We then focus on an examination of the population sizes of presumed current PCE users that have been listed in the academic literature on PCE, on presuppositions, which have been problematized by some authors as based on anecdotal or misinterpreted survey data. We follow this with an empirical examination of a potential PCE user population in a national context (students at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia). We then proceed to examine the regulatory options proposed in the academic literature to address PCE, finally comparing them with an empirical overview of the policy recommendations on PCE produced in the multinational context of several national ethics advisory bodies (EABs) in Europe. Our main conclusion is that there is still little debate among the national EABs on what type of public policy responses, if any, are needed to address PCE in European countries, and that the issues they do address are similar to those discussed and proposed in the academic articles on PCE. (shrink)
The article investigates the sociocultural implications of the changing modern workplace and of pharmacological cognitive enhancement as a potential adaptive tool from the viewpoint of social niche construction. We will attempt to elucidate some of the sociocultural and technological trends that drive and influence the characteristics of this specific niche, and especially to identify the kind of capabilities and adaptations that are being promoted, and to ascertain the capabilities and potentialities that might become diminished as a result. In this context, (...) we will examine what PCE is, and how and why it might be desirable as a tool for adaptation within the workplace. As human beings are, or at least should be allowed to be, more than merely productive, able-bodied and able-minded workers, we will further examine how adaptation to the workplace niche could result in problems in other domains of modern societal life that require the same or other cognitive capabilities. In this context we will also focus on the concept of responsibility and how it pertains to PCE and the modern workplace niche. This will shed some light on the kind of trends related to workplace niche construction, PCE and capability promotion that we can expect in the future, and on the contexts in which this might be either beneficial or detrimental to the individual as a well-rounded human being, and to other members of society. (shrink)
Synthetic biology is rather a new field of science and technology. Societal, regulatory, legal, ethical, safety and security aspects of this field have already been analysed in much detail and discussed very widely in recent years. There is, however, a dearth of empirical studies on the points of view of relevant stakeholders in countries where SB is still in the process of emergence. Slovenia is one of them, and accordingly, the article analyses the situation of SB in this small country, (...) focusing on the points of view of various stakeholder groups concerning three aspects of SB: the policy framework, the ethical-legal discourse and the issues of biosafety and biosecurity. It is argued that Slovenia has missed many opportunities to foster the domestic development of the field; in particular, considering that at an early stage, young Slovenian researchers participated very successfully in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. (shrink)
In this important essay, Joseph Mali argues that Vico's New Science must be interpreted according to Vico's own clues and rules of interpretation, principally his claim that the 'master-key' of his New Science is the discovery of myth. Following this lead Mali shows how Vico came to forge his new scientific theories about the mythopoeic constitution of consciousness, society, and history by reappraising, or 'rehabilitating' the ancient and primitive mythical traditions which still persist in modern times. He further (...) relates Vico's radical redefinition of these traditions as the 'true narrations' of all religious, social, and political practices in the 'civil world' to his unique historical depiction of Western civilisation as evolving in a-rational and cyclical motions. On this account, Mali elaborates the wider, distinctly 'revisionist', implications of Vico's New Science for the modern human sciences. He argues that inasmuch as the New Science exposed the linguistic and other cultural systems of the modern world as being essentially mythopoeic, it challenges not only the Christian and Enlightenment ideologies of progress in his time, but also the main cultural ideologies of our time. (shrink)
The aim of this contribution is to critically examine the metaphysical presuppositions that prevail in (Stewart in Found Sci 15(4):395–409, 2010a ) answer to the question “are we in the midst of a developmental process?” as expressed in his statement “that humanity has discovered the trajectory of past evolution and can see how it is likely to continue in the future”.
BackgroundObtaining informed consent for participation in genomic research in low-income settings presents specific ethical issues requiring attention. These include the challenges that arise when providing information about unfamiliar and technical research methods, the implications of complicated infrastructure and data sharing requirements, and the potential consequences of future research with samples and data. This study investigated researchers’ and participants’ parents’ experiences of a consent process and understandings of a genome-wide association study of malaria involving children aged five and under in (...) class='Hi'>Mali. It aimed to inform best practices in recruiting participants into genomic research.MethodsA qualitative rapid ethical assessment was undertaken. Fifty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with the parents of research participants. An additional nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior research scientists, research assistants and with a member of an ethics committee. A focus group with five parents of research participants and direct observations of four consent processes were also conducted. French and translated English transcripts were descriptively and thematically coded using OpenCode software.ResultsParticipants’ parents in the MalariaGEN study had differing understandings of the causes of malaria, the rationale for collecting blood samples, the purposes of the study and the kinds of information the study would generate. Genomic aspects of the research, including the gene/environment interaction underlying susceptibility or resistance to severe malaria, proved particularly challenging to explain and understand.ConclusionsThis study identifies a number of areas to be addressed in the design of consent processes for genomic research, some of which require careful ethical analysis. These include determining how much information should be provided about differing aspects of the research and how best to promote understandings of genomic research. We conclude that it is important to build capacity in the design and conduct of effective and appropriate consent processes for genomic research in low and middle-income settings. Additionally, consideration should be given to the role of review committees and community consultation activities in protecting the interests of participants in genomic research. (shrink)
Background: As actors with the key responsibility for the protection of human research participants, Research Ethics Committees (RECs) need to be competent and well-resourced in order to fulfil their roles. Despite recent programs designed to strengthen RECs in Africa, much more needs to be accomplished before these committees can function optimally.Objective: To assess training needs for biomedical research ethics evaluation among targeted countries.Methods: Members of RECs operating in three targeted African countries were surveyed between August and November 2007. Before implementing (...) the survey, ethical approvals were obtained from RECs in Switzerland, Cameroon, Mali and Tanzania. Data were collected using a semi-structured questionnaire in English and in French.Results: A total of 74 respondents participated in the study. The participation rate was 68%. Seventy one percent of respondents reported having received some training in research ethics evaluation. This training was given by national institutions (31%) and international institutions (69%). Researchers and REC members were ranked as the top target audiences to be trained. Of 32 topics, the top five training priorities were: basic ethical principles, coverage of applicable laws and regulations, how to conduct ethics review, evaluating informed consent processes and the role of the REC.Conclusion: Although the majority of REC members in the targeted African countries had received training in ethics, they expressed a need for additional training. The results of this survey have been used to design a training program in research ethics evaluation that meets this need. (shrink)
Initial responses to questionnaires used to assess participants' understanding of informed consent for malaria vaccine trials conducted in the United States and Mali were tallied. Total scores were analyzed by age, sex, literacy (if known), and location. Ninety-two percent (92%) of answers by United States participants and 85% of answers by Malian participants were correct. Questions more likely to be answered incorrectly in Mali related to risk, and to the type of vaccine. For adult participants, independent predictors of (...) higher scores were younger age and female sex in the United States, and male sex in Mali. Scores in the United States were higher than in Mali (P = 0.005). Despite this difference participants at both sites were well informed overall. Although interpretation must be qualified because questionnaires were not intended as research tools and were not standardized among sites, these results do not support concerns about systematic low understanding among research participants in developing versus developed countries. (shrink)
Jules Michelet: Vico and the origins of nationalism -- James Joyce: Vico and the origins of modernism -- Erich Auerbach: Vico and the origins of historism -- Isaiah Berlin: Vico and the origins of pluralism.