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European Commission - Research - Biosociety

Biosociety and the Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy
Knowledge based bio-economy
EU-funded research
Bioethics networks
National ethics committees
Page last update: 25/12/2008

Integrating the ethical, legal, social, and wider cultural aspects into life science and biotechnology research

As the life sciences and biotechnology develop, they contribute considerably to securing personal and social welfare, as well as to creating new opportunities for our economies. At the same time, the general public is increasingly concerned about the social and ethical consequences of these advances in knowledge and techniques, as well as about the conditions forming the choices made in these fields. Indeed, a certain public reluctance to support these developments seems to exist at times, and there are still significant European differences in national attitudes towards specific techniques and areas of research in this field. Nevertheless, there is growing agreement in Europe on the need to regulate these developments, seeking a balance between assuring the freedom of research and the protection of the individual.

Our democratic societies should offer the necessary safeguards and channels of dialogue to ensure that the development and application of the life sciences and biotechnology respects the fundamental values recognised by the European Union in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Thus, an effective societal scrutiny, an ongoing public dialogue, and an integration of ethical and social aspects into the early phases of research, before the technology is ready for use by society, are key preconditions for harvesting the potential of biotechnology (ref. The European Commission communication on ‘Life science and biotechnology – a strategy for Europe’ [PDF document – 176 Kb] published January 2002).

Under the Sixth Framework Programme for Research (2002-2006), the European Commission has taken the responsibility of ensuring that the ethical, legal, social, and wider cultural aspects are taken into account at the earliest possible stage of Community-funded research in the life sciences and biotechnology. The ethical and social debate needs to become a natural part of the research and development process, involving the general public to the greatest extent possible.

In order to achieve this goal, the ethical, legal, social, and wider cultural aspects will be addressed at several levels by:

I. promoting the integration of ethical, legal, and social analyses into research projects
II. encouraging public dialogue and the participation of stakeholders in research projects
III. fostering ethical awareness and foresight attention in research
IV. supporting specific actions to promote the debate on ethical, legal, social, and wider cultural aspects of the life sciences and biotechnology, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of their consequences.

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Last update: 25 December 2008 | Top