Tackling the thorny ethical problems of scientific research: what role can the public play?
Thursday 1 December 2022, 6.00pm to 9.30pm CET
Major scientific breakthroughs deepen our understanding of nature and ourselves. Such discoveries have the potential to transform our everyday lives.
From Newton’s discovery of gravity to the invention of the jet engine, from the discovery of DNA to the creation of new drugs to tackle debilitating diseases, discoveries made at Cambridge have shaped the world around us and changed the lives of millions of people.
Yet the same science that holds promise for progress often raises concerns and questions for society. For example, artificial Intelligence and machine learning can be used to make computers solve problems in seconds that might take humans years – but some worry that AI poses an existential threat to human life itself. Gene therapy holds out the hope of personalised medicine that may benefit millions of people – but what risks might be posed by trying to edit our genes? Whenever there is cutting-edge scientific discovery, thorny ethical questions are never far behind.
When ethical issues do arise from scientific discovery, who bears responsibility for ’solving’ these? What role can the general public play – and how can public views contribute to shaping the ethics of scientific research?
With a specific focus on genetics, Anna will explore when and how wider public views can be brought into discussion about the direction of scientific research, its benefits and risks.
Professor Anna Middleton
Professor Anna Middleton is Director of the Kavli Centre for Ethics, Science and the Public in the Faculty of Education. She is also Associate Director for Engagement and Society at Wellcome Connecting Science. Here she leads a team of researchers and engagement experts exploring the social and ethical impact of genetic technology.
Anna is an experienced psychologist and spent 10 years working in the NHS as a practicing genetic counsellor. She is co-founder of the World Congress on Genetic Counselling in Cambridge and co-wrote the core curriculum for training genomic counsellors for the NHS in England. Anna now uses her clinical experience to guide social science research on how people make sense of science. She has a particular interest in how both scientists and the public understand and engage with ethical issues around genomics.
Anna is passionate about delivering research that has real practical value in influencing policy, clinical practice and public engagement. Her mission is to ‘socialise’ genomics so that anyone, irrespective of prior knowledge or familiarity, can connect with the ethical issues of relevance to them.
She has held many prominent positions, including sitting on the World Economic Forum’s Biotechnology council; chairing the oversight committee for Genomics England and Sciencewise’s work on the Social Contract between patients and the NHS; and being selected as the Genomics and Ethics expert on the Secretary of State for Health’s Topol review on the future of the NHS in respect of genomics, robotics and AI.