Institute for Science and Ethics

ISE Project Overview

This project was funded by the Oxford Martin School and ran from June 2005 until September 2012.

Project summary

The new biosciences (Stem Cell Science, Cloning, Artificial Reproduction and New Genetics) are paradigmatic of current technological advance; they raise immediate and unprecedented challenges for humanity in the 21st century. Offering opportunities for great benefit to people and significant economic development, the new biosciences also present significant risks and raise profound questions about what it is to be a human person, how our lives should go and the nature and scope of our obligations to present and future generations.

ISE addressed 3 central questions:

  • What limits should we place on research, development and use of the new biosciences?
  • How should unethical research, development and use of the new biosciences be prevented?
  • How should ethical research, development and use of the new biosciences be facilitated?

By providing a new model for research:

  • Identifying and analysing the ethical issues involved in current and near-future scientific advances from a broad interdisciplinary perspective (medicine, science, ethics, humanities, social sciences, especially psychology)
  • Promoting professional and public understanding and debate, from an engaging, non-partisan, open position
  • Creating a new and constructive relationship between science, medicine and ethics
  • Providing policy and legal recommendations, also resources for human research ethics committees


Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

ISE conferences & events

  • Reducing   Religious   Conflict   (Oxford,   2012),   2   day   high-profile   international   and interdisciplinary conference.
  • The Mechanisms of Self-Control: Lessons from Addiction (Oxford, 2010) brought together leading thinkers in neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry and philosophy to explore and advance understanding of the mechanisms of self-control and the way in which they are weakened in addiction.
  • Does religion Lead to Tolerance or Intolerance?   Perspectives from Across the Disciplines (2010); 3 day international conference including such high-profile speakers as Richard Dawkins & Patricia Churchland.
  • Bioprediction (Washington DC, 2010) collaboration with Duke University and LSE, involving leading clinicians, social scientists, neuroscientists, lawyers and ethicists.  Focus was on whether biological information (‘biomarkers’ from latest technologies) can aid predictions of misconduct, future delinquency and crime.
  • Human Enhancement: What Should Be Permitted?   Brocher Symposium (Geneva, 2009) 21 invited   speakers   from   8   countries   representing   disciplines   of   philosophy,  bioethics, sociology, sports medicine, public health and medical science
  • Direct-to-Consumer   Genetic   Testing:   Ethical   and   Regulatory   Issues   (Oxford   2010) collaborative  workshop  with  Oxford  Biomedical  Research  Centre  and  Ethox  Centre  to explore ethical and regulatory issues emerging with the introduction of ‘DTC’ tests by companies such as deCODE Genetics, 23andME and DNADiect.
  • Organism  and  Machine:  The  Conceptual  and  Normative  Challenges  of  Synthetic  Biology (Copenhagen,  2010)  collaborative  workshop  with  University  of  Copenhagen  bringing together interdisciplinary experts including evolutionary biology, medicine, bioethics, philosophy of science.  Explored the conceptual, theoretical and ethical dimensions of the machine-organism distinction.
  • A Consortium Approach to Ethical and Values Issues in Emerging Technologies (Oxford, 2010) ISE workshop held at request of the University of Texas.
  • The  Possibility  of  Religious-Secular  Ethical  Engagement  (Oxford,  2012)  series  of  public debates: Ethics of Abortion; Ethics of Euthenasia (Savulescu and Charles Camosy)
  • The Value of Life (Oxford 2013) landmark public debate between two of the most prominent ethicists of our time, Jeff McMahan (Rutgers University) and John Broome (White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, Oxford)
  • Ethics, Equipoise and Research on Charged Particle Therapy (Oxford, 2011)
  • Commodifying Carbon: The Ethics of Markets in Nature (Oxford, 2007) collaboration with ECI.
  • Genetics and Social Justice Conference, Oxford (2007)
  • Ethics and Infectious Diseases, Oxford (2007) which came out of ISE’s strong relationship with EI and resulted in a special issue of the new journal Ethics and Public Health, a book and grant proposals
  • ENHANCE: The Ethics of Human Enhancement, IAB Satellite Conference, 8th World Congress of Bioethics, Beijing (2006).
  • Human Nature and Bioethics conference (City University, Hong Kong, 2007) included such leading speakers as Jonathan Glover (King’s College, London), Jeff McMahan (Rutgers), John Harris (Manchester), Dan Brock (Harvard), Dan Wikler (Harvard), Ingmar Persson (Göteborg), Jo Wolff (University College, London)