Go back

Bioethics council to extend transparency and reach

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has announced that it intends to increase transparency in its workings, expand the range of people involved in consultations and improve engagement with the public.

In its 2012-16 strategic plan, published on 21 August, the council outlines the areas it plans to develop, and notes its need to respond to rapid changes in bioscience research.

By anticipating public concerns the council aims to identify ethical questions, and, according to chairman Jonathan Montgomery, to promote “robust, rigorous open-minded debates about new developments in science and technology”.

The plan recommends the council show greater flexibility and transparency in identifying topics.

To achieve this, the council intends to improve its ability to identify the right topics at the right times, recognise the potential audiences from the outset, and work with a wider group of people both during and after a consultation.

To help disseminate and promote its activities, it will set up a network of ‘associates’ who have previously contributed to the council’s work.

The plan sets out a timeline for a number of reviews and oversight processes. The way topics are chosen will be assessed in 2014, selection criteria will be reviewed in 2016, and there will be a periodic review of the council’s financial and core administrative procedures.

A council management subgroup will be created to oversee business planning and advise on governance and risk, and the council will hold twice-yearly meetings with funders.

Furthermore, the plan acknowledges that the increasingly global nature of research means the council needs to develop international partnerships.

The report says the council will “consider working alongside other groups to extend and improve reach and impact” of its work, and maintain its role in international networks to support and inform agendas.

The council is jointly funded by the trustees of the Nuffield Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.