Ethics and RRI: the experience of UNITOV, Italy

STARBIOS2 Ethics UNITOV Carla Montesano

Dr Carla Montesano – Assistant Professor of General Pathology and Immunology, member of STARBIOS2 Coordination Team, and responsible for the STARBIOS2 Action Plan of University of Rome – Tor Vergata

Taking into account the Italian context, what are the objectives of the STARBIOS2 team regarding the relationship between ethics and RRI?

In Italy, as is known, ethics in the biosciences sector is regulated by law at the national level and specific activities, such as the use of animals and biological samples of human origin, the generation and use of GMOs, are controlled by specific control committees.

Within the framework of the STARBIOS2 project at the Department of Biology of the University of Rome “Tor Vergata, we intend to raise awareness among young researchers on ethical issues, increasing the perception of ethics as a useful way for improving the research (in a qualitative sense): this to say that the adoption of an ethical practice in research means that research results and products are socially accepted.

Furthermore, we aim to involve young researchers and PhD students in the ethics debate, as an important RRI key. The idea is to organize a “Bioethic open lab”, that is a permanent and open working group in the Department of Biology, for working out ethical issues regarding the biosciences.

Which institution, within your university, is promoting this reflection?

The “UNESCO interdisciplinary Chair in Biotechnology”, active since twenty years in the Department of Biology of University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, has carried out research related to the immunology of infectious diseases, educational and training activities, and technology transfer in developing countries.

Research and capacity building work related to the promotion of biotechnology in Africa oblige us to take into consideration the issues of sustainability, inequality, as well as bioethics. For this reason, the Chair has recently been transformed into “UNESCO interdisciplinary Chair in Biotechnology and Bioethics and involves not only teachers of Immunology, Pathology, Biotechnology, but also teachers of Bioethics and Social Ethics.

What other actors are you involved in these activities?

As for every key aspect of RRI, it is essential to involve a wide range of actors. Just to consider those inside the University, we can mention the Members of the Ethical Committee of Animal Facility, the Guarantee Committee (CUG), the members of the Direction of University Hospital, the General Manager of University, as well as several professors, researchers and students.

Read the previous blog post on “Education in Biosciences” by the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”.