Paved With Good Intentions: Rethinking the Ethics of ELSI Research

TitlePaved With Good Intentions: Rethinking the Ethics of ELSI Research
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSeltzer, D, Zoloth, L, Traina, CLH, Kiesling, L
JournalJournal of Research Administration
Date PublishedFall2011
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number15391590
KeywordsConflict , ELSI , ethicists , ethics , funding , humanities , SOCIAL
AbstractEthical, Legal and Social Implications ("ELSI") research has played an increasingly important role in scientific research. Tens of millions of dollars, many of which are public, are spent funding scientific research projects. Taxpayers are demanding that scientific advancement move forward, hand-in-hand with careful examination of the many ethical and social issues that are raised by the emerging sciences. It is not uncommon to find grants that include ELSI components. This raises a potential problem relating to the ability of ethicists to undertake serious, objective reflection and make independent, normative suggestions. If the Principal Investigator (PI) of the grant controls the funding of the ethics component and ELSI reflection suggests acts or omissions that would negatively affect the PI's scientific project, especially given the current economic climate in which reductions in ethics and humanities funding jeopardize other employment, ethicists may be placed in a position of having to decide between seriously jeopardizing their career, or ignoring the moral problem and compromising their professional integrity. One suggestion to avoid this conflict is to separate the funding of ELSI components from the scientific portion of the grant and to erect a secure firewall between the two. 
NotesSeltzer, Daniel 1; Email Address:; Zoloth, Laurie 2; Email Address:; Traina, Cristina L. H. 3; Email Address:; Kiesling, Lynne 4; Email Address:; Affiliations: 1: Attorney at Law 943 S. Kenilworth Ave. Oak Park, Illinois Tel: (312) 259-1244; 2: Medical Humanities and Bioethics Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine Professor, Department of Religious Studies Director, Brady Program in Ethics and Civic Life Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University Crowe Hall 5-163 1860 Campus Drive Evanston, Illinois Tel: (847) 644-8807; 3: Department of Religious Studies Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University Crowe Hall 5-179 1860 Campus Drive Evanston, Illinois Tel: (847) 491-2938; 4: Department of Economics Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University Senior Lecturer, Social Enterprise at Kellogg Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University Leverone Hall 392 2001 Sheridan Road Evanston, Illinois Tel: (847) 491-8250; Issue Info: Fall2011, Vol. 42 Issue 2, p15; Thesaurus Term: SOCIAL impact; Thesaurus Term: CONFLICT of interests; Subject Term: ETHICS; Subject Term: ETHICISTS; Subject Term: HUMANITIES; Author-Supplied Keyword: conflict of interest; Author-Supplied Keyword: ELSI; Author-Supplied Keyword: ethics; Author-Supplied Keyword: funding; Number of Pages: 10p; Document Type: Article