Research partnership examines ethics of innovation

A research partnership between CSIRO, The University of Queensland, the Australian National University (ANU) and Charles Darwin University will focus on the challenges brought on by innovation in science and technology.

The collaboration will inquire into areas including synthetic biology, robotics, precision health, hydrogen and artificial intelligence, and ask what issues these advances present for society.

Entitled the Responsible Innovation Initiative, the project is funded through a $5.75 million fund, along with CSIRO’s Future Science Platforms.

Director of the Responsible Innovation Initiative, Dr Justine Lacey, highlighted how technological innovation comes with its side-effects.

We recognise that future science and technology provide significant opportunities to benefit our lives, but these are not without their own set of ethical, social and regulatory challenges,” said Lacey.

Lacey argued that the benefits of technological innovation depends upon its responsible application.

“If left unresolved, these challenges can hinder the progress and innovation required for this science to deliver benefits to society and to future generations,” said Lacey.

With funding also coming from the partner tertiary institutions, five postdoctoral fellows will be appointed over the course of the five-year program to look at emerging science and its application in fields including precision health, hydrogen, Indigenous futures, and artificial intelligence, along with any other emerging areas of innovation.

Findings from these studies will be used to inform regulation and policy that structures the development and use of new technologies, as University of Queensland provost, professor Aidan Byrne, highlighted.

“This collaboration allows us to examine and develop new policy and regulatory responses to new and emerging technological innovations,” said Byrne.

Bringing an inter-disciplinary approach to the ethics and consequences of science could lead to improved outcomes, in the course of science engagement programs, said director of the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, professor Joan Leach.

“This national collaboration builds on strengths at the ANU in social sciences and science engagement to reimagine responsible innovation as a framework for doing better science,” said Leach.