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Issue no. 2 - 2005

by Redazione FGB [1], 17 June 2005

Innovation, medicine and responsibility. A number of documents recently posted on the Foundation website refer to this topic and to the meeting with Daniel Callahan. The Bassetti Foundation invited Callahan, one of the leading international experts in bioethics, to Milan in February (see also the previous Diary in the site).

In the "Topics" section we published Cristina Grasseni's interview with Callahan along with a report on the seminar he conducted in the Bassetti Foundation headquarters to discuss the Lecture he had given a few hours earlier at the Università Cattolica. References to the texts already published on "Innovation, Medicine and Responsibility", and to other material in the site and elsewhere concerning Callahan and the events in Milan, were grouped together in one single point in the section (the post of 13 June).
Closely connected to all of this is another interview, in which Cristina Grasseni and Piero Bassetti engage in a dialogue with Thomas Murray, president of the Hastings Center (the research institute in Garrison, New York, directed and co-founded by Callahan) on the key points of the genomics issue. The following two excerpts give a good flavour of the content of the interview:
"Do you think [...] that we shall be forced by the rationality of medicine itself to take the whole of mankind into consideration? The effects of a genetic change for instance cannot be controlled once introduced" (Bassetti);
"Genomic knowledge to me looks like an example of knowledge that creates new situations that were unthinkable of. I am thinking of privacy and disclosure and informed consent, of the bio-banks that have been set up or are about to be" (Grasseni).

Public participation and the governance of innovation. This is the subject within which the Bassetti Foundation's presence at the European Union Forum on "Science and Society" can be set. Our participation at this event is linked to the project promoted by Lombardy Region (which we have discussed in previous editions of the Diary) in which the Bassetti Foundation, in collaboration with IRER and Observa, has involved various categories of players (entrepreneurs, scientists, policy makers, consumers' and environmentalists' associations, and citizens) with an interest in the issue of innovation in the biotechnology field. A report on the Brussels Forum has been published in the site, along with the text of the presentation by Massimiano Bucchi and a page bringing together the informational resources of relevance to the Project.

The contributions on the subject of "Nanotechnologies and the risk society", which were summarised in a recent page, can also be read from the perspective of the governance of innovation. They revolve around the survey on Americans' attitudes to nanotechnology conducted by three researchers from North Carolina State University, and the report compiled by Swiss Re (one of the leading re-insurance companies) on the risks involved. The title of this report speaks for itself: "Nanotechnology: small matter, many unknowns".
The page containing references to the documents addressing this subject is introduced by an article in which Gian Maria Borrello explains the reasons prompting us to discuss it in the site.

The recent considerations by Daniele Navarra in his blog also refer to the governance of innovation and science. In the post entitled "The democratic responsibility of scientific power" he took as his starting points two articles written by Jacques Testart for "Le Monde Diplomatique" and the paper presented by Massimiano Bucchi at the Brussels Forum.

Navarra's article also discusses the controversial Precautionary Principle, an issue which has always been followed closely by our readers and on which the editorial staff of the site have again been focusing closely in recent months. Indeed, it was at our readers' suggestion that in the Rassegna stampa and Segnalazioni blogs we have presented and commented on publications discussing the Principle. The Topics section also contains two articles on this subject, one of which concerning a book by Umberto Izzo in which he discusses the issue from the juridical point of view (while also casting light on its political essence) and the other an essay by Gavino Zucca (already published in the Observa website), who sees a close relationship between the Principle and the governance of innovation.

Since the beginning of June the site has devoted a new space (blog) to the Anthropology of Innovation. Coordinated by Cristina Grasseni, the space is at one and the same time a "column" and a service for readers, as it is intended to draw their attention to studies and sites dealing with the anthropological aspects of innovation and responsibility, while also taking into consideration some "local" ethnographic case studies and some reflections on the globalising aspects of innovation and responsibility. Cristina Grasseni's first article, "Slow Food Fast Genes", is a summary of a study presented on behalf of the Foundation and the University of Bergamo to the Association of Social Anthropologists at their annual convention in Aberdeen this year.

DiaBloghi, the blog opened at the end of December to address the issue of poiesis intensive innovation in dialogue form, summed up the discussion thus far, with a particular focus on ideas from the people who played a part in writing the dialogues. Tommaso Correale Santacroce, who conceived of and coordinates the blog, then opened up the question to a new wave of writing that aims primarily to address the responsibility aspect.

Feel free to write to us with your ideas, opinions and suggestions, because the site -- a publishing initiative that celebrated its fifth birthday in April -- is also a place for open, on-going debate.

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