The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated in unprecedented ways the critical need of the public, governments, and the private sector to access clear, accurate and timely information about the ethical issues surrounding decision-making in science, medicine and public health. To help provide such vital information more broadly and effectively than ever before, the Berman Institute of Bioethics today announced its intention to create a new program in public bioethics, fueled by the receipt of $3 million in philanthropic support to establish the The Dracopoulos-Bloomberg Bioethics iDeas Lab.
“Virtually every aspect of our nation’s response to COVID involves an issue of bioethics: balance between personal freedom and public safety in wearing masks, and the closing and reopening of schools and businesses; allocating scarce medical resources; safely developing vaccines; using new contact tracing technology, and much more,” said Jeffrey Kahn, the Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director of the Berman Institute.
“Our public bioethics effort will significantly increase understanding about critically important issues in bioethics and ethics in science more generally. Higher levels of engagement with bioethics issues that impact our communities, locally, nationally, and internationally, will inform public discussion and debate and ultimately impact policy decisions.”
The Dracopoulos-Bloomberg Bioethics iDeas Lab, named in recognition of Andreas C. Dracopoulos, a trustee of Johns Hopkins University and member of the Berman Institute of Bioethics’ national advisory board, and former chair of the University’s board of trustees Michael R. Bloomberg, is an important first step in this effort. The Lab will enable the Berman Institute to pioneer new approaches for creating bioethics content, taking advantage of new media strategies, the latest media technologies, and innovative approaches to visualization of information and research results.
The $3 million contribution will support new physical space to house the iDeas Lab, provide new technology, and support new professional staff and faculty colleagues devoted to the creation and distribution of engaging digital, audio, and video content with a focus on dissemination professionals, policymakers, and critically important, the public. Dracopoulos previously funded creation of a similar and very successful lab at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC, one of the nation’s leading national security think tanks. The CSIS iDeas Lab was an early leader in bringing together their scholars with content producers, developers and designers to create a compelling range of digital products of research.
“The iDeas Lab will make possible for the work of bioethics, and ethics and science more generally what the creation of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center provided for political leaders, journalists and the public looking for authoritative thought leadership,” said Kahn. “We will employ cutting edge techniques and technologies to share the research and analysis of our faculty on the most pressing issues facing our society.”
Additional components of the public bioethics program will unfold in coming years. The Berman Institute will reach policymakers with a series of high-profile bioethics events in Washington, DC. Experts from the iDeas Lab will work with faculty across Johns Hopkins to devise new ways of sharing academic research with the public. And the Berman Institute will seek to add additional faculty with expertise in assessing the societal impact of increased public dissemination of scientific and public health scholarship.