STEPE - Sensitive Technologies and European Public Ethics
In progress from 01-06-2008 to 30-04-2011
Project manager: Helge Torgersen
Biotechnology, Energy technology, Environment, Environmental technology, Ethics, Expert-based, Health, Innovation, IT & communication, Medical technology, Nanotechnology, Parliament involvement, Public participation, Risk, Sustainability
Past developments in the domain of modern biotechnology, for example GM food in Europe, have shown that the consideration of public concerns is crucial for sustainable technology development. Such concerns are likely not only to be based on sound science understandings of risks and utilities but, increasingly, to involve ethical issues and general ideas about “how we want to live”. This is especially likely with sensitive technologies in the life sciences such as embryonic stem cell research, synthetic biology or human-animal chimeras, to name but a few. The purpose of the STEPE project is to investigate these broader public concerns – which we conceptualise as “public ethics”. The project is innovative in contributing to the early identification of potentially controversial technological developments and related public ethics, by systematically researching the views of key stakeholders in the governance of innovation in science and technology, and the perceptions of European citizens in 27 European member states and Turkey. The interdisciplinary and multi-method approach will aim at establishing an integrated European Map of Public Ethics. It is our aim to stimulate new, empirically grounded thinking on public ethics as a contribution to wider debates and policy making on responsible technological innovation.
Read more on the project homepage
In each of the 10 participating countries the research team are conducting expert interviews with a range of stakeholders involved in the governance of science and technology - scientists,policy makers, ethicists, NGOs, civil society organisations, religious leaders and journalists. The objective is to understand how the different countries deal with sensitive technologies and how policy initiatives have taken, or might take, account of public ethics. The interviews will provide a data base for a comparative analysis of styles of governance of sensitive technologies in Europe.
A second objective of these interviews will be the identification of sensitive technologies in the different countries as a contribution to the design of the next in the series of triennial Eurobarometer surveys on Biotechnology and the Life Sciences to be held in 2009. The Eurobarometer surveys have become a benchmark as a systematic and dispassionate assessment of public perceptions, or what we term ‘public ethics’, of the life sciences and other technologies interpreted in the context of issues of trust, governance and social values. In a sense the Eurobarometer surveys are a form of ‘social observatory’, complementing prospective technology forecasting initiatives; supporting the development of societally sustainable innovation; informing communication strategies on aspects of science and technology; and, with the time series dimension, providing an explanation of the evolution of public opinion.