Debates on technological developments touch fundamental ethical considerations and uncover wide mistrust in public authorities and scientific establishments. Policy makers have reacted by incorporating ethics into the decision making processes of S&T policy. Different nations have different ways of doing this, ranging from advisory expert committees to open debates with relevant stakeholders. The form and method in which ethics is incorporated in S&T varies greatly throughout Europe and its actual impact in decision making is still unclear.
INES brings together a group of European experts in the area of S&T ethics and the relevant policy making community, to analyse comparatively the manner by which ethics is incorporated into the official decision making structures. The analysis is done in terms of representations of the "ethical problem"; understanding of the concepts "ethics vs morality", "ethics vs bioethics"; the notion of ethical 'expert'; and consideration of lay values in the decision making process.
Informed by public perceptions research on "ethics" and paying particular attention to gender differences, the project will explore case studies presenting particular challenges for the incorporation of ethics in decision making (medical genetics, genetic databases and food technologies). The differences in the understanding of the ethical issues and the incorporation approaches chosen will provide the basis for the creation of a "European map" which will be critically examined in terms of impact assessment and best practices.
The ultimate goal of INES is to create a pan-European platform where ethics experts, policy makers and relevant stakeholders can debate, exchange information, identify "best practices" and devise ways to improve the input and impact of ethics in the actual decision making process.