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Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO

Integrating ELSA into CCBIO

CCBIO’s ELSA team is a dedicated research group on the ethical, legal and social aspects of cancer biomarkers. The group’s model is that of “integrated ELSA”, namely to build ELSA awareness and capacity throughout the CCBIO by interaction both in the scientific venues and the governance bodies of the center, including a dedicated PhD course.

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Portrait of Roger Strand.
Photo:
Ingvild Melien

Roger Strand is a trained natural scientist (cand. scient. (biochemistry, 1992) and dr. scient., (biochemistry, 1998), both degrees from the University of Bergen, Norway). Ever since his dissertational work, which combined biochemistry with philosophy of biochemistry, he has worked on issues of methodological underdetermination in science, scientific uncertainty and complexity. This has gradually led his research into broader strands of philosophy, ethics and social research and broader issues of policy, decision-making and governance at the science-society interface.

The group's projects

The ELSA team pursues three main lines of inquiry: 1) Issues of social justice and public legitimacy in priority decision-making in public health care, and how biomarkers and personalized cancer medicine affect these ethical issues by providing increased scientific knowledge but also changed business models for the pharmaceutical industry; 2) The tension between the need for universal rules and values in public health decision-making and the ethical relevance of biological and clinical understanding of individual cancer patients (or small subgroups); and 3) The ethical aspects of the challenges of reproducibility and clinical (ir)relevance in biomarker research. These three lines are interrelated and also closely related to the economic aspects studied by economist colleagues in CCBIO.

Additionally, considerable research and policy-advising effort has gone into the issue of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). This was not anticipated in the original application as the RRI concept came to the academic and policy forefront only in 2013. Notably, the team leader Roger Strand has inter alia chaired a European Commission DG Research and Innovation Expert Group on Indicators for Responsible Research and Innovation and contributed to the revision of the ethical frameworks of the Council of Europe. In 2016, this work has focused mainly on the implementation of RRI in Norway and through the Research Council of Norway.

Research results

Anne Blanchard (2016). Mapping ethical and social aspects of cancer biomarkers. N Biotechnol. 33(6):763-772. While potentially more important publications are in the pipeline for 2017, Blanchard’s paper is highly original as it presents the results of a broad-scoped, integrated  mapping of ethical and societal aspects of cancer biomarkers performed within and together with a cancer research consortium. Blanchard, A. (2016). Mouse models: some reflections from the lab. In A. Olsson, S. Araujo & F. Vieira (Eds.), Food Futures: Ethics, Science and Culture (pp. 505-510). The Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Publishers. F. Wickson, R. Strand & K. L. Kjølberg (2015). The Walkshop Approach to Science and Technology Ethics, Science and Engineering Ethics, 21:241–264. (Comment: This is a paper on the methodology  of integrated ELSA research.) E. Schei & R. Strand (2015). Love life or fear death? Cartesian dreams and awakenings. In: Â. Guimarães Pereira & S. Funtowicz (eds): Science, Philosophy and Sustainability. The End of the Cartesian Dream. London and New York: Routledge, Earthscan, pp.45-57.

Plans for the future

The group’s immediate plan for 2017 is to finalize the group’s upcoming anthology “Social and economic aspects of cancer biomarkers” in collaboration with the CCBIO Economics team. For CCBIO’s 2nd period, the group plans to keep the original research foci and strengthen the collaboration with the health prioritization ethics team at the University of Bergen. Additionally, they will launch a new research line on RRI and Quality, transcending the idea of attending to specific ethical and societal aspects and attending to the co-production of science, technology and society itself – in the group’s case, the co-production of cancer research, treatment and what we broadly may call the politics and political economy of cancer treatment. The group wishes to explore issues such as (i) the reproducibility challenge, (ii) the “relevance” of biomarkers and the challenge of ecological/external validity and (iii) the role of theory and model architecture in preclinical research, including the role of systems biology and the digitalization of biology.

Outreach

The outreach dimension of the ELSA work is highly important. The group has organized two international conferences: 

 

Publications

See Strand's publication list.