Today, we publish the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ 2023 horizon scan infographic, highlighting where technological developments in bioscience and health may require acute ethical considerations.

If a topic is present in our horizon scan it signifies that there is a potential for a development in that area to spark ethical concern. Many of the topics featured will not be a surprise, and indeed reassuringly some have been reviewed by us in recent publications. For example, our recent overview paper that proposed a set of principles to help minimise ethical issues arising through efforts to respond to the health impacts of climate change. Other topics that feature in our scan include the use of artificial intelligence in genomics. We believe further ethical consideration is urgently needed in this area.

The insights our scan is based upon have been gathered through an in-depth analysis of academic papers, news articles, opinion blogs and social media posts. In addition, by having regular and directed engagement with our extensive network of scientists, bioethicists, research councils, professional bodies, Government departments and policymakers we have been able to tap into their knowledge and expertise, keeping abreast of likely advancements and assessing how we may need to respond.

In our Strategic Plan for 2018-2022, we committed to embedding a more sustained and established approach to horizon scanning. Our Council Advisory Group, Chaired by Dr Sue Tansey, has supported this effort, working with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Executive Team to initiate a programme of themed horizon scanning workshops and a monthly staff ‘lunch club’ where we discuss developments that have come to our attention.

Now, as we move towards launching our new five-year strategy in January 2024, our Director, Danielle Hamm, has taken the decision to further evolve our horizon scanning approach. Therefore, Dr Jay Stone and I have been recruited to form a new team to lead on the work.

Together, Jay and I are currently working to assess the different methodologies that organisations use to carry out their horizon scan activities. Some of the people we have spoken to work in the same sector as us, focused on spotting emerging trends in scientific research, others are more interested in tracking political ambitions and requirements for new guidance. In the new year, we’ll be consolidating our learning to develop several draft proposals for how the Nuffield Council on Bioethics could enhance our horizon scanning efforts, potentially adopting some formulaic and formalised methodologies. These proposals will then be tested and challenged by a newly formed external steering group and our horizon scan Advisory Group. Our plan is to further shape and then agree on one final proposal, which will we hope will be presented to and ratified by the Council in the spring of 2024.

I am excited about the work we are doing and look forward to penning further updates to share with you. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please do get in touch as we’d love to hear from you.

Comments (2)

  • Francisco Rosero - Villarreal   

    Congratulations, amazing work for the future of research on bioethics globally

  • VAIA   

    Artificiall intelligence in genomics is critical for the eqilibrium of health within humans and their
    environment due to contribution of creative research within the framework of ethics.

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