2019 promises to be another busy and stimulating year for us all here at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and we look forward to welcoming some new Council members this spring. Here is a very quick run through of the major topics and projects that we have planned for this year.
What’s ‘on the horizon’ for bioethics?
We started off the year by launching our new infographic, showcasing the range of topics that are ‘on the horizon’ for bioethics. If you haven’t seen it yet you can find it here, and the accompanying blog post from our Director Hugh Whittall is well worth a read.
The infographic has elicited lots of helpful feedback including several new topics, and new angles on existing topics, to add to the list. Please do continue to send us your feedback as this will help us plan our future work programme and ensure we are selecting topics that are timely and important.
Our next horizon scanning workshop is planned for summer 2019 and will focus on scientific developments relevant to crime and security. This is the latest in a series of series horizon scanning workshops that we started last year, to help us identify scientific developments and ethical challenges related to societal challenges. The first workshop held in July 2018 considered the role that science and technology could play in meeting food sustainability challenges. Read Roland Jackson’s blog about the event. This is an area we will be taking forward in 2019 with work on genome editing in farmed animals and a briefing note on meat consumption (see below).
We have just started a new project exploring the ethical issues associated with genome editing and farmed animals. This will consider questions about product safety, animal health and welfare, and the most appropriate ways to meet societal challenges such as food security and sustainability. You can find out more about the working group and background the project here. This is the latest in a series of reports on the ethics of genome editing, following publication of our report on genome editing and human reproduction in July 2018.
Work is continuing on our inquiry examining the ethical challenges surrounding conducting research in global health emergencies. We have been consulting and gathering evidence widely to gather evidence for our deliberations. We are partnering with the African coaLition for Epidemic Research, Response and Training (ALERRT) to co-host a joint workshop in Dakar in March to explore community engagement in ethical research and we have participated in international meetings in Beirut and Singapore to present our work and gain valuable input into our project.
Bioethics briefing notes
Continuing our series of bioethics briefing notes, our next briefing note will focus on disagreements in the care of critically ill children. There have been several recent high-profile cases of healthcare teams and parents fundamentally disagreeing about the care of critically ill children in the UK. The briefing note will summarise evidence about social and medical factors that might be contributing to how such disagreements develop, and the potential challenges for policy makers. We will publish that in April.
The topics for further briefing notes that we will be working on this year include implantable medical devices and the ethics of meat production and consumption.
In focus workshops
Throughout the year we will be continuing our series of ‘in focus’ workshops. The first workshop on 29 April will explore current research and potential policy applications of epigenetics. If you are interested in attending, please contact Ranveig Svenning Berg. Topics for further workshops later in the year will be chosen nearer the time. Last year we held ‘in focus’ workshops on three bioethics topics: experimental treatments, wearable and implantable devices, and disagreements in the care of critically ill children. These all went on to inform further work.
Our network of people
We are enormously grateful to everyone who gives up their time to participate in our events, review drafts of documents, and offer advice more generally. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is more than its committee members and staff – we are a large network of people with expertise in a diverse range of subjects and experience, without whom our work would not be possible. We were pleased to expand this network throughout 2018, and we hope to make even more new contacts in 2019.
Stay in touch
You can keep up to date with all of our projects and activities by signing up to our email newsletter, and as ever we welcome all suggestions and thoughts on bioethics issues that we might consider working on. If there are other topics that you think we should be looking at, please let us know.