The first of its kind in decades, the Forbidding Science conference will explore whether some scientific research should be restricted and if so, how far should these restrictions go. Conference scholars will address the growing consensus that certain research should not be done for the good of humanity. But, there is no consensus among scientists, policymakers, ethicists, national security experts and lawyers about which research should be restricted, who should make the decision, and how these decisions should be made. There also is the question of whether it is illegal to ban research under the First Amendment. This issue has never been litigated in the U.S.
"This timely conference is controversial and groundbreaking," said Gary Marchant, executive director of the Center for the Study of Law, Science & Technology at ASU. "We have reached a point in human history where some of the scientific research we could do, perhaps, we should not do for safety, national security or ethical reasons.
"In particular, the conference will examine questions raised by pathogen and toxin, nanotechnology and cognitive enhancement research," added Marchant, who also is an ASU College of Law professor. "We must choose, for the first time, which science should be allowed and which should not. Scientists now are actively engaged in discussions about self-regulation and codes of conduct."
Marchant points out research areas that either have been restricted or may be restricted in the future. Some states have already banned embryonic stem cell research. Universities are concerned with viral and pathogen experiments and their risk to humans if fallen into the wrong hands. The National Institutes of Health has established a separate board to give advice and guidance to the federal government regarding biological research that has the potential for misuse to pose a biologic threat to public health or national security (i.e., dual use research).
More than 20 distinguished scholars from across the U.S. and England will participate in group discussions covering topics such as Framing Forbidding Science, Is There a Right to Conduct Research and Prospects for Governing Research. Among the distinguished conference scholars include Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University; Leon Kass, Clark Harding Professor, Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago; and Martin Redish, Louis & Harriet Ancel Professor of Law and Public Policy at Northwestern University School of Law. George Poste, director of ASU's Biodesign Institute, will be the keynote speaker Thursday evening (Jan. 12).
Along with ASU College of Law and the ASU Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Affairs, Forbidding Science conference co-sponsors include, the Biodesign Institute; Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes; the Center for Biology and Society; Arizona Consortium for Medicine, Society and Values; American Association for the Advancement of Science; Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics; and American Bar Association Section of Science and Technology Law.
The conference is open to the public and welcomes all ASU faculty, staff and students. There is no conference fee except for attorneys seeking continuing legal education credits. Advance registration is requested. To register, please go to the conference link at www.law.asu.edu/forbiddingscience.
Paul Atkinson, ASU College of Law
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