The BIST centre CRG has published the findings of a report exploring the in-depth views of civil society, funders, journalists, policymakers, and other key collaborators in Spain. The report discusses a wide range of issues related to the future direction of the CRG, such as the importance of basic science, funding for science, and the ethical and social implications of biomedicine.
• The report finds strong support for basic science in Spain, with the Covid-19 pandemic having shown the importance of strong knowledge foundations to monitor infections or develop vaccines on short notice
• A lack of funding was the primary concern, with the public broadly in support of increased public funding for research. Though the public supported collaborations with private companies, they felt the profits from patents and enterprise should be reinvested back into science
• The public wants more internal debate among the scientific community and to create guidelines that go beyond the current regulations on ethics
The findings of the exercise, which is one of the first of its kind to be carried out by a research centre in Spain, has contributed to the development of the CRG’s present and future strategic research lines. As a result of the report, the CRG will carry out two further public dialogue exercises for research related to AI and medical genomics, and will incorporate new activities to discuss emerging bioethical issues in modern biology.
“The public dialogue has allowed us to approach society in a unique manner, sharing our experience and knowledge with society while being able to listen to their needs and concerns. The exercise has provided critical insight for the future direction of the CRG, and we are proud to have been able to include the ideas of the general public and our stakeholders into the strategy of the research centre. This is unprecedented in Spain and we hope it marks a new beginning for how we carry out research in the country,” says Luis Serrano, Director of the CRG.
At the same time, the field of biomedical research is experiencing profound changes, transforming from a descriptive discipline into one that is quantifiable thanks to advances in AI and genomics, helping researchers make predictions about human health and disease that were not possible a few years ago and raising new ethical debates.
In order to understand the public’s priorities for continuing to carry out fundamental research while simultaneously pursuing applications in genomics and molecular biology for human health, and the ethics and funding of these, the CRG commissioned global leading market research company Ipsos to conduct a public dialogue with people across Spain. A public dialogue is a process during which members of the public interact with researchers, stakeholders (for example, research funders, businesses and policymakers) to deliberate on issues relevant to future policy decisions.
The public dialogue included 31 members of civil society at large, reflecting the Spanish population and taking into account their age, gender, and backgrounds. It also invited 22 people with a professional relationship with the CRG, including funders, bioethicists, clinicians, journalists, and entrepreneurs. Finally, 15 scientists from the CRG took part. The groups deliberated on various research projects that are actively taking place at the CRG over three separate online sessions.
The public dialogue is part of ORION, a 4-year European project coordinated by the CRG which aims to explore new ways for biomedical research institutes to open up the way they fund, organise, and carry out research. This is the fifth public dialogue that has taken place at an ORION partner institute, following a series of public dialogues on genome editing in the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, and the UK.
“ORION has empowered the CRG by allowing us to experiment with new ways of engaging the public and stakeholders. The knowledge and experience we have gained through these projects is an important legacy, and we are excited to share these through inspiring stories, hands-on guidelines and new training. The collaborations and friendships we have made will last beyond ORION to push forward Open Science,” says Michela Bertero, Head of International and Scientific Affairs at the CRG and Coordinator of ORION.
More information and translations (Catalan, Spanish) can be found on the CRG website.