Authored by: Maura Hiney, ALLEA Permanent Working Group Science and Ethics
Reviewed by: Camilla Leathem and Andrew Whittington-Davis
RE and RI in the field of new and emerging technologies
ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, has been a long-standing voice in the fields of research ethics and research integrity through its Permanent Working Group Science and Ethics, which has covered a wide range of issues relating to research ethics and integrity. This includes the development of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity in 2017, issued by ALLEA and recognised by the European Commission as the reference document for research integrity for all EU-funded research projects and a model for organisations and researchers across Europe. One of the main motivations for developing the European Code of Conduct was ALLEA’s recognition that the world of science has changed enormously over the past two decades, and that the ethical and research integrity approaches to new and emerging technologies are not yet fully understood in terms of their potential impacts on society and the economy. This poses challenges for the research community, funders and policymakers in terms of ensuring continued good research practice and strong ethical foundations for these advances.
Resources in the current RE + RI landscape
Europe has many existing ethics codes and guidelines to protect research subjects and broader society from any detrimental effects of research, and these have served us well. However, the radical nature of many technological innovations creates new ethical dilemmas about, for example, the very nature of being human, the potential to create fundamental societal inequalities and injustices, to make irreversible changes to the physical and cultural environment, breach basic privacy principles, impact on human freedom and autonomy, and open the door to potentially harmful misuse of new technologies. As a result, our current ethics codes are inadequate to deal with these challenges and this creates a gap in both understanding of and protection from the potential consequences of unchecked innovation. We urgently need new guidelines for the research and innovation community that can future-proof existing ethics and integrity principles and practices.
TechEthos RE + RI solutions
TechEthos will tackle this need for new guidelines by bringing ethical and societal values into the design and development of new and emerging technologies from the very beginning of the process. Such ‘ethics by design’ will allow for new, usable guidelines for the research community. In the end, the project will be developing guidelines for 3 exemplary new and emerging technologies across different domains. TechEthos will explore the ethical implications and potential consequences of several domains of knowledge advancement for which new codes and guidelines will be required. These can then become key supports to the European Code of Conduct and ensure that researchers have the best possible guidance on how to contribute their skills to the advancement of knowledge in a safe, considered and equitable way.
As a partner in the TechEthos project, ALLEA will contribute to enhancing existing legal and ethical frameworks by ensuring that TechEthos outputs are in line with The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, and identifying opportunities to borrow from TechEthos to inform future revisions of the Code. Linking new ethics guidelines to the European Code of Conduct will provide a common framework from which national and local codes and policies can be developed or updated to reflect current challenges. This will be important in ensuring consistency at a high level and promoting a common understanding of what constitutes good and ethical practice in research. This will not only benefit the research community but also enhance public trust in future research outputs.
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