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|Center for Ethics and Complex Systems|
The advent of technology and its use to mine great databases of biological information is both a boon and a bane for ethicists, scientists, and policymakers.
For that reason, Rensselaer has created the Center for Ethics and Complex Systems to conduct social, ethnographic, and historical research into the way technological change drives scientific and societal change and to contribute to the establishment of best practices for biotechnology.
Ten years ago, scientists didnt have to deal with such massive data flows as we see now, says the centers director, Kim Fortun. While the speed and complexity of bio-technology research has spawned many hopes, its also given rise to many unanswered ethical questions.
The centers mission is to understand and address the ethical implications of new technologies, including those brought about by emerging biotech research areas such as pharmacogenomics and toxicogenomics, which make use of tiny labs on a chip called microarrays.
Pharmacogenomics is the attempt to identify human variation in drug response to create designer drugs for individuals. Toxicogenomics combines information from microarray results, proteomics, and other genetic studies to model biological and environmental stressors. While both fields of study have been recognized as having wide-ranging social impacts, neither research area has been studied in depth by social scientists, Fortun says.
The Center for Ethics and Complex Systems is housed within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and its core members include bioethicists and science, technology, history, and political- science professors.
|Rensselaer Magazine: December 2002|
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