Knowledge for Development

Ethics

Science and ethics are inextricably bound together. Science is said to be objective and ethics is subjective as it is linked to personal choices. This dossier deals with the broad range of ethical complexities in science, research design and implementation, selection and use of material, implications of innovative outcomes and the interest of society. In his lead article: Ethics in Science for Development Prof. Michiel Korthals, Head of Department Applied Philosophy, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, discusses ethical dilemmas scientists often face. Prof. Annabel Fossey of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa, in her lead article: Research Ethics and Agricultural Innovations – The Dilemma of Scientists states that since the advent of genetic engineering the view that scientists are, in general, trustworthy and ethically sound, and that agricultural research leading to new technological advances is intrinsically good has been altered, culminating in an ever growing societal interest in agricultural practices and their consequences. Links to publications and downloadable articles and websites of relevant organizations on research ethics with regard to life sciences support this dossier. Prepared by KIT in collaboration with CTA – July 2008; edited by J.A. Francis, CTA & J. Sluijs, KIT

Towards a global ethics science code

by Melissa Anderson, University of Minnesota, USA
Research integrity and scientific misconduct are issues of global concern. Science itself is a global enterprise. Academic research is increasingly international, as communication technology enables worldwide collaboration. The trustworthiness of scientific findings is fundamental to the progress of science everywhere. Falsification of records or results, dishonesty, misrepresentation and other inappropriate acts all compromise science. They waste scarce resources that could be used for legitimate scientific research and jeopardize future funding of science by government and private organizations.Certain aspects of cross-national research make concerns about integrity even more critical. Collaborators from different countries may work under different laws, regulations, customs and assumptions concerning the conduct of research. What is acceptable in one country may be illegal in another. At present, however, there is no organization or other body with global responsibility for research integrity. There is no worldwide agreement on what constitutes research integrity or, in fact, how the term "integrity" should be understood, given that it cannot be translated directly into some other languages. Likewise, scientific misconduct is open to interpretation, as countries exhibit different levels of tolerance for plagiarism or inaccurate authorship lists. 21/07/2011
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Synthetic biology and ethics: Building public trust

by Julian Kinderlerer, President, European Group on Ethics, Professor, Intellectual Property Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa, Professor, Biotechnology & Society, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
Synthetic biology and ethics: Building public trust Julian Kinderlerer, President, European Group on Ethics, Professor, Intellectual Property Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa, Professor, Biotechnology & Society, Delft University of Technology, NetherlandsDownload the article.The science of synthetic biology has become of great interest in the last few years, with major studies being commissioned to examine the implications of this new technology. In 2009, President Barosso, President of the European Commission, requested an Opinion of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) on the ethics of synthetic biology (EGE, 2009). In this request he indicated that “the debate about the legitimacy of engineering new life forms has mainly focused on safety issues and a work on the ethical, legal and social implications that may derive from this specific use of biotechnology is still missing.” Download the article. 05/05/2011
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In a paper released today by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, authors Michal Moore, Senior Fellow, and Sarah M. Jordaan at Harvard University in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, look at the basic question of whether the so-called ‘green’ energy sources are ethical. In addition to arguing that the greenhouse gas benefits of biofuel are overstated by many policymakers, the authors argue that there are four questions that need to be considered before encouraging and supporting the production of more biofuel. These questions are: What is the effect of biofuel production on food costs, especially for poor populations? Should more land be used for biofuel when the return of energy per acre is low? Are there better uses for that land? In addition to worrying about the impact of global warming, should we not consider the impact on land of massively expanding biofuel production? What are the other economic impacts of large scale production of biofuel? (Source: EurekAlert, 14 December 2010.) 14/02/2011
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by Jorge Larson Guerra, Mexico National University for the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable DevelopmentICTSD policy Brief Number 3, November 2010Jorge Larson Guerra, biologist, Mexico National University, writes a policy brief for the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) Project on genetic resources. After detailing the rationale and the history of the development of the ‘geographical indication’ (GI) concept, the author describes the GI legal context, with a focus on developing countries and their efforts to implement and promote the GI concept in their jurisdiction. GI’s value chains, and the role played in biological conservation and traditional knowledge is also explained, in depth. This brief is rich on references and provides up-to-date knowledge on GI placing it on the agricultural science and trade policy-makers’ agenda. The author concludes “the current neglect for GIs within discussions on in situ conservation and the protection of traditional knowledge should end and there should be in-depth discussions on their possible drawbacks for developing countries, as well as on their positive contributions to the pressing issues of conservation and development in rural diverse areas worldwide.” 18/03/2011
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Ethics in science for development

by Prof. Michiel Korthals, Head of Department Applied Philosophy, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
Should scientists contribute to research that improves the conversion of food crops into biofuels, if they know that in the short term this will lead to an increase in hunger? Should researchers work on developing non-sustainable irrigation projects that provide short term relief but do not address the real needs of communities for water for sustaining agricultural production? Should scientists conduct experiment trials with new foods and drugs using human subjects in poor countries where the policy, regulatory and legislative frameworks governing such trials do not exist? 28/07/2008
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The future control of food

by Geoff Tansey
The first chapter of the book presents an overview of the key issues of intellectual property rights, genetic resources, biodiversity and biosafety in national and global food systems. The following chapters cover negotiations and instruments in the World Trade Organization, Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, and various other international bodies. The final part discusses civil society responses to relevant changes and developments in these issues, how they affect the direction of research and development, the nature of global negotiation processes and various alternative futures.Read the document. 28/07/2008
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Research ethics and agricultural innovations

by Dr. Annabel Fossey, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa
The view that scientists are, in general, trustworthy and ethically sound, and that agricultural research leading to new technological advances is intrinsically good has been altered and more so since the advent of genetic engineering. This has culminated in an ever growing societal interest in agricultural practices and their consequences, thereby posing new challenges for agricultural research. 28/07/2008
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