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Ethics in science and technology

Doc. 13141: collection of written amendments | Doc. 13141 | Final version

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ADraft Resolution

1The Parliamentary Assembly observes that within the context of growing global economic competition, the political and economic pressures on science and technology to provide innovation and make economic success faster and easier can collide with ethical concerns and could lead to a lowering of the standards needed to prevent the hazards of scientific and technological research and fully protect human dignity. At the same time, the increasing complexity of science and technology through their growing convergence and interdependence, and the way they interact with the society, are making it difficult to accurately foresee and assess their long-term consequences.
2Therefore, the Assembly holds that more concerted ethical consideration should be given – at national, supraregional and global level – to the goals and purposes pursued by science and technology, to the instruments and methods they employ, to their possible consequences and side-effects, and to the overall system of rules and behaviour within which they operate.
3The Assembly believes that setting up a permanent ethical reflection globally would make it possible to address ethical issues as a “moving target”, rather than fixing an “ethical code”, and enable a periodic re-questioning of even basic assumptions, such as the definition of “human identity” or “human dignity”.
4The Assembly welcomes the initiative of the United Nations to set up a global committee with a view to engaging an ongoing ethical reflection and to explore the possibilities of drafting and periodically reviewing a set of fundamental ethical principles based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It believes that the Council of Europe could and should contribute to this process.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 4, replace the words " the United Nations to set up a global committee" with the following words: "Unesco in setting up the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST)".

Explanatory note

The rapporteur refers to the exact name of COMEST set up by Unesco in 1998. The mandate of COMEST has evolved and today covers four major topics establishing stronger links between science, technologies and sustainable development: 1) Ethics and Climate Change 2) Science Ethics 3) Development Ethics 4) Ethics of Nanotechnologies and Converging Technologies

In the draft resolution, paragraph 4, second sentence, delete the words "could and".

Explanatory note

The rapporteur wishes to grammatically simplify the sentence.

5In this respect, the Assembly recommends that the Secretary General of the Council of Europe consider establishing a flexible and informal structure of ethical reflection, through co-operation between relevant Assembly committees and members of relevant expert committees, including the Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO), with a view to identifying emerging ethical issues and main ethical principles that could guide political and legal action in Europe.
6To reinforce the common European framework of ethics in science and technology, the Assembly recommends that member States which have not yet done so sign and ratify the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (ETS No. 164, “Oviedo Convention”) and its protocols and fully engage in the work of the Committee on Bioethics.
7Furthermore, the Assembly recommends that the Council of Europe member States:
7.1extend ethical reflection and assessment to all fields of research, using the experience gained in the field of bioethics;
7.2entrust the competent bodies to draft guidelines outlining general ethical principles to be applied in all areas of scientific research, and more detailed national codes on research ethics to be applied to specific fields, including social sciences and humanities;
7.3consider ethical reflection and assessment of scientific research and technological development as a priority and allocate adequate administrative support and funding to the advisory and monitoring institutions, while guaranteeing their independence;
7.4where necessary, reform existing procedures and structures to harmonise ethical rules and streamline monitoring procedures;
7.5where necessary, review and reform existing rules in the evaluation system of professional achievements of scientists to eliminate elements in this evaluation system which could potentially reward non-ethical behaviour (such as violations of the rights of intellectual property, plagiarism, spoofing of scientific data, “artificial multiplying” of scientific achievements, for example by means of “dismembered” publishing of results);
7.6encourage the setting up of more research ethics committees at the level of universities, hospitals and other medical establishments in order to enhance the understanding and application of ethical principles and related legislation among students and researchers;
7.7endeavour to ensure that courses in all scientific disciplines include obligatory modules on ethical reflection in science and technology;
7.8increase the capacity of researchers and scientists to deal with ethical issues in their work through awareness-raising and dedicated education;
7.9introduce in the secondary education curricula opportunities to initiate deeper critical thinking on some fundamental issues related to science and technology, including the definition of human and its place in relation to nature;
7.10facilitate wide public debates on ethical issues emerging from scientific research and the development of new technologies.
8Referring to its Resolution 1870 (2012) on the need for independent and credible expert assessments, the Assembly recommends that all Council of Europe member States reconsider the existing protocols and control mechanisms concerning independent scientific and technical assessments of risks to human health and the environment, and improve them as appropriate, in particular to:
8.1prevent new processes from being implemented and new products from being commercialised without sufficient guarantees concerning their safety for human health and the environment;
8.2prevent conflicts of interest and ensure the highest reliability of results, inter alia by measures allowing sufficient lapses of time for the assessment of long-term risks;
8.3ensure the highest transparency and independence of scientific and technical assessment, inter alia by introducing an assessment traceability system and by setting up a public fund to finance “sensitive” expert assessments.
9The Assembly calls on national parliaments to develop their own scientific and technological capacity assessment and increase the involvement of the public in political decision-making as regards scientific and technological choices and regulation. The parliaments are also invited to take an active part in the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) network.
10The Assembly invites the European Union and UNESCO to co-operate with the Council of Europe to reinforce the common European framework of ethics in science and technology and, to this end:
10.1create European and regional platforms to regularly exchange experiences and best practice covering all fields of science and technology, using the experience of the Forum of National Ethics Committees (NEC Forum) and the meetings of the Council of Europe Committee on Bioethics;

In the draft resolution, paragraph 10.1, after the words "using the experience", replace the words "of the Forum of National Ethics Committees (NEC Forum)" with the following words: "acquired in the framework of the European Conference of National Ethics Committee (COMETH) initiated by the Council of Europe, and more recently the Forum of National Ethics Committee (NEC Forum) funded by the European Commission,"

Explanatory note

The rapporteur wishes to clarify that the Council of Europe had a pioneering role when it launched the European Conference of National Ethics Committee (COMETH) in early 1990s. Subsequently, the European Commission was inspired by this initiative and created the Forum of National Ethics Committees at the level of its member states (27) and EU candidate countries.

10.2draft and periodically review a set of fundamental ethical principles to be applied to all fields of science and technology;
10.3provide further guidance to help member States harmonise ethical rules and monitoring procedures, building on the positive impact of ethical requirements under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities (2007-2013) (FP7).