Projects  |  ,   |  October 1, 2017

SIENNA: Stakeholder-informed ethics for new technologies with high socio-economic and human rights impact

The SIENNA project is a European Commission-funded project in the Horizon 2020 programme with a budget of € 4.0 million and a running time of three and a half years (1 October 2017 – 1 April 2021). It involves a consortium of thirteen organizations from the European Union and other parts of the world including North America, South America, Africa and Asia. It aims to develop enhanced consideration of ethical and human rights issues in new and emerging technologies with major socio-economic impact and human rights relevance. To this effect, it will produce an ethical, legal and human-rights analysis of three such technology areas:

  • human genomics
  • human enhancement
  • human machine interactions, specifically, Artificial Intelligence (AI) & robotics

It will subsequently develop and propose new ethics guidelines and codes and proposals for amending existing ethical and legal frameworks to accommodate for the issues raised by these technology areas. The proposals will be developed in close collaboration with stakeholders, including major national and international professional organizations, industry, policy makers, civil society, and higher education.

The precise objectives of the SIENNA project are the following:

Objective 1: To develop ethical frameworks based on social, ethical and legal analyses that address major present and future ethical issues in (a) human genomics, (b) human enhancement and (c) AI & robotics. These frameworks will take into account existing legal and ethical frameworks as well as stakeholder and public opinion, including the public’s acceptance and awareness of these technologies.

Objective 2: To translate and adapt these ethical frameworks, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, so as to produce four practical tools and resources for each technology: (a) operational guidelines for research ethics committees for these technologies, (b) codes of responsible conduct for researchers who develop these technologies, (c) proposals for revisions of existing ethical frameworks, and (d) proposals for revisions of existing legal frameworks, all of which should have acceptance and approval of relevant stakeholders.

Objective 3: To generalise the approaches for developing, translating and adapting ethical frameworks that were established in (1) and (2) so that they can be applied to other new and emerging technologies, and to obtain acceptance from relevant stakeholders for these generalised approaches.

This project is important to society because it considers the ethical and human rights aspects of three major emerging technology areas that will have important socio-economic impact in the European Union and the rest of the world. It is one of very few projects with this focus and the ability to influence EU policy and practices regarding the development and use of these three technologies. It will aim to foster implementation of high ethics standards at EU and international level for the three technology areas through general ethical guidelines for society, codes of responsible conduct for researchers who develop the technologies and end users who use them, and will suggest improvements to existing ethical and legal frameworks. The project will also provide new approaches for developing, translating and adapting ethical frameworks for new and emerging technologies, and such approaches now hardly exist and are needed. The project is unique in its breadth, its international scope, its policy implications, its use of innovative new methodologies for analysis and the formulation of new tools.


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