Press Release 06/2015

Joint Conference of German Ethics Council and Leopoldina on Ethics and Globalization

Federal Minister Johanna Wanka and international experts discussed on which common basis globally connected research can be carried out in an ethically responsible way.

The chair of the German Ethics Council, Christiane Woopen and the president of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Jörg Hacker, jointly welcomed the audience on 3 December to the conference "Global Science – Global Ethics?" at Auditorium Friedrichstrasse in Berlin. Both underlined the opportunities, but also the risks involved in globalized science. Hacker pointed in particular to the freedom of research "as a fundamental basis for the progress and prosperity of a society". Woopen stressed that "to make use of the opportunities of globalization – and to shape them according to ethical standards – is the challenge of a world that is converging even in the face of adversity".

Theologian Wolfgang Huber emphasized that, besides the undoubtedly indispensable legal regulations and institutional responsibility, the ethos of scientists is of utmost importance. Are universal ethical standards possible for international research in the light of global diversity? Experts also discussed this question with reference to genome editing and clinical research. Philosophers Heiner Bielefeldt and Hans Joas reflected on the extent to which human rights are suitable as a common basis for research standards given cultural plurality.

In her presentation on research policy, Johanna Wanka, Federal Minister of Education and Research, highlighted how the conflict between freedom of research and social norms can be shaped in a way that is both positive and ethically responsible. "Research means bearing moral responsibility and asking the right questions."

In her conclusion, the chair of the German Ethics Council underlined the complexity of the challenges between local and global responsibility and between ethical pluralism and the indispensable claim to human rights. She referred to the Global Summit of National Ethics Councils to be held in 2016 in Berlin on the topic of "Global Health, Global Ethics, Global Justice".

The conference programme as well as conference papers and contributions to the discussion are available here (in German).