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HFHR’s new project: Ethics in Scientific Research and Technology Innovation

Scientific research and technology innovation are not only economic driving forces but have also, many times, brought about a change in social life. New technologies may influence the standards of fundamental rights protection in such areas as the right to privacy, environmental preservation or the quality of life. Sometimes, they strengthen the individual through reducing social inequalities and tackling poverty. Yet in some cases advances in technology may reinforce inequalities and limit the sphere of freedom. It is thus crucial to plan and implement research and innovations in a responsible way.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has joined SATORI, a research project developed to create a common European framework for ethical assessment of research and innovation. SATORI is the English acronym of the project’s official name: Stakeholders Acting Together on the Ethical impact assessment of Research and Innovation.

“Together with other project partners, we are going to look into the current model of scientific research assessment”, says Zuzanna Warso, a lawyer with the HFHR. “Firstly, we will take an inventory of the existing practices. We will review the institutions involved in the ethical assessment of research, the relevant legal framework, as well as the influence of globalisation on research models. At further stages of the project, we will attempt to improve the existing practices”, adds Ms Warso.

The project focuses on various scientific areas, from medicine to social sciences. “Ethics in research cannot be seen as only including a narrowly understood accuracy, or the absence of fabricated data or plagiarism. Ethics also involves such issues as the availability of research results or proper treatment of research participants. The project also attempts to forecast how scientific outcomes will influence society and answer questions about whether developments in technology can contribute to solving important social problems”, explains Zuzanna Warso.

The far-reaching objectives of the project required the involvement of as many as 16 partners: universities, ethics committees, industry, NGOs and international organisations.

Project participants will work within the boundaries delimited by, on one hand, the principle of freedom in scientific research enshrined, for instance, in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and, on the other, by the universal right to enjoy scientific achievements and their practical applications, mentioned in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international instruments.

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