Ethics as an Asset in Research


RWTH Syposium encourages a stronger sense of responsibility in science and research.


Last week, a symposium on the topic of "Responsible Research and Innovation" took place at RWTH Aachen University, hosted by Professor Doris Klee, Vice-Rector for Human Resources Management and Development, and Christine Roll, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

An expert in the field, Professor Dominik Groß, Chair of History and Ethics in Medicine, gave a talk on the “Risks and Side Effects of Ethics in Medicine,” discussing ethical issues at the beginning and end of life, wish-fulfilling medicine, new developments in medical engineering, and topics in eHealth.

Eve-Marie Engels, Professor of Ethics in the Life Sciences at the University of Tübingen, talked on the genesis of bioethics in philosophical anthropology, and provided examples of the continual shift – and transgressions – of boundaries in medicine enabled by new developments in biomedical engineering.

The subsequent panel discussion moderated by RWTH Chancellor Manfred Nettekoven focused on the responsibility of researchers in their daily decisions on whether to act or not to act in ethically complex situations. Furthermore, the panelists discussed on the tension between what research can do and what it should do, as well as the mandate of research to communicate with the wider public and society at large.

Five New Professorships in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Professor Roll presented the new Center for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Research, which is currently being established at the RWTH Faculty of Arts and Humanities and which will fund five new professorships in fields such as “Philosophy of Technology” and “Technology and Environmental Ethics,” among others. As Rolle explains, the new center “will establish a new infrastructure for the collaboration between the humanities and social sciences and other disciplines."

The political scientist Maike Weißpflug argued that ethics and responsibility in research should not be understood as a setting of limits or moral finger pointing, but rather as an encouragement to make relevant scientific contributions and generate new research questions.

The debate around ethics in research shall be conducted in all disciplines of the University, and the topic of “Responsible Research and Innovation” will become part of the curriculum of the Center for Doctoral Studies. The pioneering work done in ethics in medicine will provide guidance for teaching and learning in the field.

The Exploratory Research Space ERS, established as part of the Excellence Initiative at RWTH Aachen, will support the integration of ethics as an additional dimension to interdisciplinary research.