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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Why were scientists silent over gene-edited babies? – Nature (Natalie Kofler | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 12, 2019
 

To be successful as researchers, we must be able to think through the impacts of our work on society and speak up when necessary, says Natalie Kofler.

This story not only allows us to ponder the shocking revelations in this bewildering controversy (we’ve linked to the related items below), it’s an opportunity to reflect on Researcher Responsibility 14 in the Australian Code (2018) and the direction for researchers to take action to support a culture of responsible research in their field.

Millions were shocked to learn of the birth of gene-edited babies last year, but apparently several scientists were already in the know. Chinese researcher He Jiankui had spoken with them about his plans to genetically modify human embryos intended for pregnancy. His work was done before adequate animal studies and in direct violation of the international scientific consensus that CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing technology is not ready or appropriate for making changes to humans that could be passed on through generations.
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Scholars who have spoken publicly about their discussions with He described feeling unease. They have defended their silence by pointing to uncertainty over He’s intentions (or reassurance that he had been dissuaded), a sense of obligation to preserve confidentiality and, perhaps most consistently, the absence of a global oversight body. Others who have not come forward probably had similar rationales. But He’s experiments put human health at risk; anyone with enough knowledge and concern could have posted to blogs or reached out to their deans, the US National Institutes of Health or relevant scientific societies, such as the Association for Responsible Research and Innovation in Genome Editing (see page 440). Unfortunately, I think that few highly established scientists would have recognized an obligation to speak up.
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I am convinced that this silence is a symptom of a broader scientific cultural crisis: a growing divide between the values upheld by the scientific community and the mission of science itself.
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Read the rest of this discussion piece

The CRISPR-baby scandal: what’s next for human gene-editing – Nature (David Cyranoski | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 12, 2019
 

As concerns surge after a bombshell revelation, here are four questions about this fast-moving field.

In the three months since He Jiankui announced the birth of twin girls with edited genomes, the questions facing the scientific community have grown knottier.

By engineering mutations into human embryos, which were then used to produce babies, He leapt capriciously into an era in which science could rewrite the gene pool of future generations by altering the human germ line. He also flouted established norms for safety and human protections along the way.

There is still no definitive evidence that the biophysicist actually succeeded in modifying the girls’ genes — or those of a third child expected to be born later this year. But the experiments have attracted so much attention that the incident could alter research for years to come.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

(US) Will Me Too Activism Cost Professor Her Job? – Inside Higher Ed (Scott Jaschi | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 8, 2019
 

A Vanderbilt faculty member, considered a hero to many women in science, finds her once promising tenure bid has stalled.

BethAnn McLaughlin is a hero to many women in academe, especially those in science. She founded a nonprofit called #MeTooSTEM to draw attention to the harassment of women in academic science, much by prominent men who are considered leaders of their fields.

It’s hard to be entirely confident what’s really going on here and your instinct will be shaped by your attitude to UsTooSTEM campaign, but the least you can say about the described tenure process is that it doesn’t look good.

She has spoken out against “harassholes” and has named names in public speeches, asking why some scientists are still showered with honors for their science despite the way they have treated women. She has urged members of the National Academy of Sciences to resign unless all harassers are removed from its ranks.}
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McLaughlin also had notable success — where others have complained for years and achieved nothing — in taking on Rate My Professors last year. McLaughlin, assistant professor of neurology and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University, tweeted at the website that ranks faculty members, “Life is hard enough for female professors. Your ‘chili pepper’ rating of our ‘hotness’ is obnoxious and utterly irrelevant to our teaching. Please remove it because #TimesUP and you need to do better.” After a social media campaign took off to support her request, Rate My Professors announced it would take down the dubious “hotness” rating.
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Read the rest of this discussion piece

Organ transplants from executed Chinese prisoners and research ethics – Radio National ABC (Norman Swan | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 5, 2019
 

Macquarie University researchers say hundreds of journal papers in the transplant field don’t follow ethical guidelines in declaring whether or not their research includes transplants from executed prisoners in China.

The researchers want the papers retracted, saying it creates a moral hazard for the entire field of research.

Guest:
Professor Wendy Rogers

Access the page | Download/stream the audio | Access the transcript

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