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ENWISE ETHICS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 503316
Funded under: FP6-SOCIETY
Country: Hungary

Women’s voices on bioethical issues

A European initiative focused on the role that women scientists have to play in bioethics debates, particularly for post-communist countries experiencing a shift in political systems and cultural attitudes.
Women’s voices on bioethical issues
The 'Starting a debate with women scientists from post- communist countries on ethical issues' (Enwise ethics) project was established to investigate gender dimensions in the area of science-related ethical issues. Toward this end, women researchers from post-communist countries in central eastern Europe and the Baltic were invited to take part in the EU-funded project’s activities. The 'Enlarge women in science to the East' (Enwise) project concerns Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

The focus was on identifying sensitive areas in the field of bioethics in the context of a shifting political atmosphere. Previous communist regimes had effectively restricted discussion in such areas as genetics, euthanasia and religion.

Project partners organised a workshop with women scientists involved in ethical issues, calling on them to elaborate on select topics such as embryonic stem cell research. The objectives were to bring to the forefront ethical aspects of biomedical research, in an effort to highlight what is at stake for both women scientists and decision-makers. In this way, women scientists in these countries were prompted to take on a more active role and express their opinions, for beneficial developments.

Workshop participants noted that domestic legislation and regulations are hard-pressed to keep up with the fast pace at which science is developing. This is particularly true for Enwise countries, considering that the shift to market economies brought on radical changes in cultural, socioeconomic, political and legal fields. As such, a stronger process of democratisation is required — especially in bioethics where civil society, science and politics are interconnected. Women and women scientists have a major role to play in such developments.

This initiative by Enwise ethics also highlighted priority areas for the correct handling of bioethical issues. These included contributing to public opinion, ensuring transparency, realising better stakeholder representation in ethics committees, and revising regulations to better support sensitive biomedical research and prevent abuse of genetic data for national interests. Recommendations that emerged included involving scientists as well as the media in educating the general public.

Overall, the project succeeded in drawing attention to the need for scientists, and women scientists in particular, to pay more attention to the factors at play in promoting ethical matters related to scientific developments. This will elevate the status of science and related research in these countries for the benefit of their citizens as well as Europe as a whole.

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