Collaborative Research: Genomics & Society - Exploring ethics, impacts and consequences of technological advances
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Scientists and engineers who develop genomics technology must address key ethical questions about the process of genomics research, the role of society in genomics research, and carefully reflect about the intended and unintended implications of new technology for different social groups, economic sectors, communities, animals and the environment. This project develops a graduate ethics education program that uses advances in genomics and genomics technology as a central theme in a team-taught, case-based, modular course to facilitate students'' ability to understand and think carefully and critically about social and ethical questions raised by these advances. This course considers more than the downstream consequences of accepted technologies by placing importance on discussion of the formation of technologies, as well as on the in-principle decisions about whether to use them at all. This approach is innovative in considering a broad spectrum of ethical and societal issues related to genomics and genomics technologies that goes far beyond health or specific disciplinary topics to bring interdisciplinarity, critical thinking and values awareness together with genomics science to explore a range of interconnected social and ethical issues spanning human health and privacy, justice, agriculture, animals, and the environment. In particular the course raises critical questions at the human/animal/environment boundary, concerning the relationships between human, animal and environmental health, and the permissibility of various practices on different kinds of living beings including, but not restricted to humans. These questions inevitably expose students to diverse perspectives and competing ideas; and the discussions and assessment tasks are geared to help them make balanced, thoughtful, and informed judgments about these questions. The course is being developed at Texas A&M University (TAMU), and presented on campus in College Station for students from a variety of disciplines. During year 2, the course is also being presented via e-learning and textual resources at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) and Boise State University.