Getting Connected: How to achieve effective regulation of new emerging technologies?
Getting Connected: How to achieve effective regulation of new emerging technologies?
Monday 22nd November 2010, 14:30, House of Lords, Committee Room 3 Westminster
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The first symposium of BioCentre’s 2010-11 series took place on Monday 22nd November 2010 in the House of Lords. Entitled ‘Revolution, Regulation and Responsibilities: Technology and Democracy in the 21st Century” the series, as with all BioCentre events, seeks to bring together a diverse range of people from various backgrounds and disciplines in order that fresh discussion and generation of ideas might arise on matters concerning the ethical, legal and social impact and implications of emerging technologies.
As new technologies evolve and develop so does the need for effective and ‘connected’ regulation. But given the fact that these are ‘new’ technologies, a fine balance is required in order to develop regulation which offers enough protection to manage the risks involved but which does not stifle innovation and the potential social and economic benefits. A vast new landscape is opening up before us but there are no well worn templates to help us frame the future. As Justice Michael Kirby notes ‘We are experts without a great deal of expertise’.
In an attempt to set the scene for the rest of the series and frame future discussions, the first symposium sought to address the general issue of the evolution of new emerging technologies and map the intersection between new emerging technologies and policy making. Some of the key questions explored included who the primary actors are who are involved in helping to shape and give direct to the regulatory process; what is helping to fund research in these new areas and in turn inform decision makers and what ways can communication be improved between scientists and the wider public. Given the level of attendance during the afternoon and the fact that it was standing room only at some points in the afternoon, it would appear that these sets of questions currently resonated with many people.
Following introductions by and Lord McColl, room sponsor for the event and Prof Nigel Cameron, Chairman of BioCentre, the symposium divided into two halves, each consisting of three 20-minute presentations followed by panel Q&A.
Dr. Chamu Kuppaswamy, lecturer in law at the University of Sheffield’s Law School was the first speaker of the afternoon. With a keen interest in international law, primarily looking at how international law responds to new technologies and how technological advances have shaped international law, Dr. Kuppaswamy’s presentation looked at the important relationship and interplay between binding international legislation and international declarations which assume a more advisory approach. She made the point that declarations help to effectively set the agenda by engineering ‘soft law’. Examples of this include the work of the International Bioethics Committee of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and its Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights (1997) and the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005). In particular, she looked at the UN Declaration on Human Cloning and offered a legal based critique of it on the basis of its perceived premature and unnecessary nature, whilst at the same time acknowledging its achievement in terms of bringing together a diversity of voices both from the developed and undeveloped world in active debate.
Privacy and IT
Turning to the specific area of information technology and privacy issues Professor Charles Raab spoke on the range of approaches that can be taken in this regard. Identifying four key regulatory approaches in the form of laws, self-regulation, technology design and public awareness, Raab explored how good such approaches are at protecting privacy and the relationship between each of them before proceeding to look specifically at policy actors and responsibilities and evaluating their effectiveness also. In conclusion, his main argument centered around that to achieve effective regulation there is both the need to consider the regulatory instruments and the policy environment in which they operate.
Concluding the first half of the afternoon’s discussion was Professor Andy Stirling who gave a very engaging presentation entitled ‘Pluralising Progress’, coming at the issue of regulating new technologies from the perspective of public and democratic engagement. He laid out his idea of establishing a democratic politics which opens up as opposed to stifling and closing down technological progress. Through the interrelationship of diverse pathway which are deliberate yet reversible and experimental, precautionary appraisal which goes beyond narrow risk assessment and draws up plural expertise helping to foster open science based discussion, Stirling posited that it would help to reconcile scientific, technological and democratic rigour.
Public engagement and research
Following a short comfort break, Matt James, Associate Director of BioCentre, chaired the second half of the afternoon which commenced with Dr. Steven Hill, Head of the Strategy Unit of Research Councils UK, speaking on the relationship between public engagement with research and the development of effective regulation for emerging technologies. Hill underscored the key and important link between these two given the fact that most, if not all ‘emerging technologies’, emerge from research. Therefore in order to ensure effective public engagement takes place, there needs to be effective research which informs the public’s engagement. Consequently this means effective public engagement needs to take place at the core of research ‘upstream’.
From here, Hill briefly discussed the growing collection of engagement reports which clearly demonstrate the need for and great potential in helping to influence policy direction and regulatory design before developing his key point which centred around the idea that while there is undoubtedly plenty of evidence that public dialogue has the potential to be helpful in designing appropriate regulation there is less evidence that it actually does so. Thus, the real challenge lies in helping to feed that thinking that rises from public dialogue and engagement in to the regulatory process.
Scrutinising science and technology
Andrew Miller MP, chair of the House of Commons Select Committee for Science and Technology, gave a very helpful and enlightening presentation of the work and remit of the select committee in scrutinising science and technology in Parliament. During the course of his talk he explained the make up of the committee as well as its powers and responsibilities before highlighting some of the committee’s recent enquiries and reports. Miller also drew attention to the parliamentary work of the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST) and the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee.
Health, humanity and justice
The afternoon’s concluding presentation was delivered by Julia Manning, Chief Executive of the health and technology think-tank, 2020health.org. Julia spoke on the recent report she has edited “Health, humanity and justice: Emerging Technologies and health policy in the 21st Century”. Manning commenced her talk by explaining the rationale for the report before proceeding to highlight salient points from the its finding. In essence, the report represents a framework which serves to consider the impact on healthcare and society in the future of emerging technologies such as bionic implants, smart drugs, designer medicine and artificial life. It was recognised by Manning and her team that there is a significant lack of awareness amongst policy makers and commentators of these subjects. Given the rather fragmented approach by other agencies in looking at these issues, there was found to be a need to not only highlight the convergence of many of these issues but also raise the fresh questions which are posed by these technologies.
Drawing upon BioCentre’s title for the symposia series, Manning proposed that the Government’s role could be summarised as providing refuge (security for today); regulation (safety for tomorrow) and responsibility (cognisance of the future). Manning then proceeded to briefly explain the methodology of the report before addressing four of the most far reaching technologies identified by it, namely IT applications, ‘smart’ drugs, synthetic biology and genetic prediction. In conclusion, the report finds that there is a need for a formal process to evaluate the risks and benefits of emerging technologies which stretches across government and is not just limited to one department, as many of the technologies span areas such as defence, energy, agriculture, social care as well as health.
The afternoon closed with panel Q&A with the speakers from the second half before Prof Nigel Cameron made some concluding remarks and drew the symposium to a close. Clearly the afternoon’s discussions had provided much food for thought for both speakers and audience alike, presenting more questions than perhaps it provided answers. In many respects this only seeks to affirm the thinking behind the series. Fear and risk has to be mitigated against a backdrop of advancement in science and technology which currently cannot be fully explained or predicted. Existing regulatory systems are disrupted by the pace of new technologies resulting in legislative frameworks becoming redundant and to regulatory “disconnection”. There is the need for fresh ideas and thinking which help to ‘connect’ regulatory models with new technological development.
Thoughts and reflections
In helping to frame the series focus and identify some of the key meta-themes (such as intellectual property, privacy and asymmetry) which intersect with these questions, the afternoon was a great start to the ongoing conversation the series seeks to host. Clearly given the increasingly connected and global world in which we live, a global approach needs to be adopted if regulation of these technologies is to be successful. How exactly this works, though, remains a hot topic for debate, with a need to balance national interests with the rest of the global village. We aim to involve representatives from the global scene in future discussions precisely for this reason.
Likewise, as highlighted in this first symposium, the need for public and democratic engagement is important but the challenge is to make this effective and practical and not just a theoretical exercise. Whether we fully realise the implications of, it could be that advances in new technologies will end up empowering people from the bottom up, not top down. On the one hand, this could well mean that it is all the more difficult to implement commercial or governmental control, creating a fresh take on democratic life in the global village. Conversely, it could also lead to asymmetry; enduring strife and conflict arising from a lack of coordination across disciplines and constituencies.
As the series continues it is the hope of all of us at BioCentre that in hosting this conversation some fresh ideas and approaches to these questions may well start to emerge and gather momentum.
Why not join us for the next symposium in the series? The second symposium in the series will focus on nanotechnologies and will take place on 28th February 2010 in the House of Lords. Specific focus and speakers will be announced shortly.
The symposium is free to attend but RSVPs are required.
To RSVP: Email email@example.com or telephone 0207 227 4706.
Speaker PowerPoint presentations from “Getting Connected: How to achieve effective regulation of new emerging technologies?” will be made available online shortly.
A full report of the symposium will be produced in due course.
Dr. Chamu Kuppuswamy
Lecturer, Sheffield Law School
Chamu Kuppuswamy is an early career academic at Sheffield Law School. She started teaching law at Sheffield International College, Sheffield Hallam University and at Sheffield Law School while doing her PhD, which she completed in December 2006. She teaches a wide range of subjects, at the undergraduate and post graduate levels.
Her research interests are in international law, primarily looking at how international law responds to new technologies and how technological advances have shaped international law. She is interested in international regulatory issues, intellectual property, human rights and the work of international intergovernmental organisations in these areas. She is also interested in public engagement in ethics and regulation.
Kuppuswamy is a member of Sheffield Centre for International and European Law, Sheffield Institute of Biotechnology Law and Ethics and Sheffield Institutional Development Network.
In terms of research interests, Kuppuswamy works on legal and ethical challenges in human cloning, the right to development and international intellectual property, the conception of cultural rights and their relation to traditional knowledge issues, cultural rights and methodology (the use of arts in understanding law and culture), legal issues in protection and promotion of traditional medicine in traditional cultures, the human genome as common heritage, trade versus security in nuclear technology.
- PhD, University of Sheffield
- MA Security Studies, University of Hull (Chevening Scholar)
- ML International and Constitutional Law, (University Second Rank Holder) University of Madras
- BL, (University First Rank holder) Dr. Ambedkar Law College, University of Madras
Professor Charles D. Raab
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh
Charles D. Raab is Professor Emeritus and Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, where he was Professor of Government, and has also held visiting positions in several academic institutions in the UK and abroad. With main research interests in public policy, governance and regulation, and more specifically in information policy and practice, privacy, identity and surveillance, his research has been supported by major academic funding bodies and by governments. He currently participates in several international projects, including the European Union’s COST Action on ‘Living in Surveillance Societies’ (LiSS) and the Canadian project on ‘The New Transparency: Surveillance and Social Sorting’. He has published many academic articles and books, including (with C. Bennett) The Governance of Privacy: Policy Instruments in Comparative Perspective (2006). With other members of the Surveillance Studies Network, he wrote A Report on the Surveillance Society for the Office of the Information Commissioner (2006) and the update report, The Surveillance Society (2010). He has advised and consulted for a number of governmental and other bodies in the UK (including Scotland), the European Union, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. He was the Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution for the inquiry, Surveillance: Citizens and the State, 2nd Report of Session 2008-09, HL Paper 18. He is a founding member of the Scottish Privacy Forum, sits on the editorial or advisory boards of many journals and research projects, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).
Professor Andy Stirling
Research Director for SPRU, University of Sussex
Andy Stirling is Research Director for SPRU (science and technology policy research) at the University of Sussex, where he co-directs the ESRC Centre on 'Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability' (STEPS). With a background in the environment and peace movements and in natural and social science, he is an interdisciplinary policy-focused researcher, working on issues around the governance of science, technology and innovation. He has served on a number of public advisory bodies including EU committees on Energy Policy, Science in Society, Public Engagement, Sustainable Development and Science and Governance. In the UK, he has served on the Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances, GM Science Review Panel, DEFRA Science Advisory Council and the Advisory Board of the BIS Sciencewise Programme – as well as working groups for the Royal Society and Nuffield Council on Bioethics.
Head of Strategy Unit, Research Councils UK
Steven Hill is Head of the Research Councils UK Strategy Unit. Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership between the seven Research Councils. RCUK exists to help the Research Councils to work together more effectively to achieve their individual and collective goals. The RCUK Strategy Unit leads and supports the collective work of RCUK and has teams focusing on the following areas:
- Knowledge transfer and economic impact
- Public engagement with research
- Research careers and diversity
- Research policy and strategy
Steven joined RCUK in August 2007 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where he spent five years providing scientific advice and developing Defra's approach to evidence and innovation. Prior to his time at Defra, Steven was a university lecturer at the University of Oxford where his research focussed on plant physiology and biotechnology.
Andrew Miller MP
Member of Parliament for Ellesmere Port and Neston and Chair of the House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee
Andrew Miller was educated in Malta, Hampshire and at the London School of Economics, and holds a Diploma in Industrial Relations.
His began his career as a technician in geology at the Portsmouth Polytechnic, where he developed an XRF and XRD laboratory. He then moved into industrial relations and was an official for the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union where he represented many scientists and engineers working in leading companies from 1977 until he was elected to Parliament in 1992.
As Labour Member of Parliament for Ellesmere Port and Neston, Mr Miller represents just under 70,000 electors. As well as dealing with numerous widely diverse issues at constituency level, Mr Miller is also Chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee; Chair of the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee; Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee (PITCOM) and a Member of the Liaison Committee. Between 1992 and 2001 he was also a member of the House of Commons Information Committee and has served on many other parliamentary committees.
Mr Miller was a Member of the First Steps Team working with the Foreign Office to promote relations with EU and prospective EU member states with specific responsibility for Hungary and Malta and his liaison work with the two countries continues today. His particular political interests include Communications and Information Technology; Regional Economy; Science and Technology; the Environment and Industry.
Mr Miller is the author of: 'Information and Communication Technology Tools for Better Government' a paper commissioned by the Cabinet Office Minister in preparation for the Modernising Government White Paper in 1998.
Mr Miller also presents widely on Information Technology, E-working and E-Government.
Chief Executive, 2020health.org
Julia Manning studied Visual Science at City University, graduating in 1990, and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. She was a founder member of the British Association of Behavioural Optometrists and her work has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, London, working with several London PCTs and being a Director of the Institute of Optometry.
She took postgraduate studies in diabetes and established her own optometry practice working with physically and mentally disabled patients which was sold to Healthcall Ltd in 2009. Julia is a founder and Chief Executive of the think tank '2020health.org' which launched at the end of 2006. She stood for parliament in 2005 and has written on many health and technology policy issues as well as the history of her profession in '60 years of the NHS' [St. James’s House, 2008]. She has a special interest in framing the policy questions surrounding emerging technologies.
Lord McColl of Dulwich
Symposium room sponsor
Lord McColl was born in 1933 and educated at Hutchesons' Grammar School, Glasgow, and St. Paul's School, London where he won a Foundation Scholarship in Classics. He studied medicine at London University and was Professor of Surgery at Guy's Hospital until 1998 and continues to teach at King's College on the Guy's Campus. He is also Surgeon to the international charity Mercyships and frequently operates in the poorest countries of West Africa.
He was a Surgeon to St Barthomew's Hospital and Sub-Dean of the Medical College 1967-71; Research Fellow at Harvard 1967; Professor of Surgery at Guy's Hospital 1971-98; Chairman of Government Working Party on ALAC Services 1986-87; and Vice-Chairman of Special Health Authority for ALAC Services 1987-91.
Lord McColl was made a Life Peer for his work for disabled people in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 1989. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Prime Minister John Major from 1994-97. Since 1997, he has been a Shadow Minister for Health. He was made a CBE in 1997 and a Fellow of King’s College in 2001. For his charitable work for Mercyships, he received the Great Scot Award 2001 and the Distinguished Maritime Award of the National Maritime Association, USA 2002.
Speaker PowerPoint presentations will be posted here shortly.
- 2020health.org report -“Health, humanity and justice: Emerging Technologies and health policy in the 21st Century” (PDF download)
- The STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) - A new interdisciplinary global research and policy engagement hub, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, develop a new approach to understanding, action and communication on sustainability and development.
- Law, Innovation and Technology Journal (Hart Publishing)