Bioethics on its way into the NordForsk portfolio

Bioethics on its way into the NordForsk portfolio

NordForsk took over the secretariat function for the Nordic Committee on Bioethics at the start of 2014. “We’re looking forward to an exciting and enriching collaboration between the committee and NordForsk,” says Director of NordForsk Gunnel Gustafsson.

“Many programmes and projects in NordForsk’s diverse portfolio – particularly the initiatives on health and welfare research – touch on issues involving research ethics,” explains Ms Gustafsson. “From this perspective it makes perfect sense for the Nordic Committee on Bioethics and NordForsk to work together more closely,” she states.
Bioethics deals with areas that pose ethical dilemmas in connection with research on humans, plants and animals, i.e. the ways in which we collect and use biological and medical knowledge.
“The Nordic Committee on Bioethics is also particularly concerned with the ethical implications and the use of modern biotechnology for the environment, human health and society as a whole,” says committee chair Anne Ingeborg Myhr.


Greater awareness of bioethics

The objective of the committee is to generate greater awareness and promote a common understanding in the Nordic countries on bioethics issues. Another task is to present a Nordic perspective on bioethical challenges internationally. The committee cooperates with the national committees for research ethics in the individual Nordic countries and plays an active role in international fora, most recently in summer 2013 at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Helsinki, where scientific misconduct was one of the areas of focus. This is a topic of interest for NordForsk as well.

“We hope that cooperation with NordForsk will strengthen the committee’s activities as well as expand our contact network in the Nordic countries,” says Ms Myhr.

Directing focus towards diverse ethical problems

In recent years, the committee has organised conferences and issued reports on topics ranging from ethical perspectives on sexual identity and gender, assisted reproductive technologies and surrogacy, and mental health to ethical issues surrounding hunting and protection of marine mammals. In the years ahead the committee is planning to look more closely at topics such as animal welfare, ethical consumption and use of new biotechnology such as synthetic biology. Another area of focus is ensuring that the sharing of medical data between the Nordic countries takes place in a secure and responsible manner. This is particularly relevant in the context of health and welfare research.


Promoting Nordic cooperation

The Nordic Committee on Bioethics was established in 1989 to promote Nordic cooperation and information exchange in bioethics between researchers, politicians, opinion-makers and public administrators. The committee has two representatives from each of the Nordic countries. Committee members are nominated nationally and appointed for a three-year term by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The chair is elected by the committee itself and rotates annually between the countries.

Read more about the Nordic Committee on Bioethics

Text: Anne B. Heieraas