9 December 1999

Institute for Molecular Bioscience to create ethics and public policy unit

The joint CSIRO-The University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience is establishing an Ethics and Public Policy Unit to initiate and oversee ethical and community standards in its scientific research programs.

The Unit will be headed by a full-time director, and be established by February next year. It will be also linked to the University's existing Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

The Director will actively foster and develop public policy on the Institute's biotechnology programs and ensure that the science undertaken is in tune with community expectations and standards.

All University scientific research is administered under national guidelines set by the Australian Health Ethics Committee, which operates within the National Health and Medical Research Council. Research at the University is overseen by four ethics committees comprised of a broad cross-section of people representing the legal, medical, religious and general communities.

The new position will not replace these committees but will take the ethical and public policy considerations for the Institute's 700 scientists and administrative staff to a new level of engagement with the community.

Institute co-director, Professor John Mattick, said the establishment of the Ethics and Public Policy Unit was the next stage in the scientific community's progress towards involving the community in the direction and nature of research being carried out.

"This Unit will look at how to involve the community in the way in which experimentation is carried out and also at how awareness of the benefits of scientific endeavour can be increased," Professor Mattick said.

"This is part of the overall debate about how best to progress the wellbeing of the population and environment not only in Australia but also worldwide," Professor Mattick said.

The Institute for Molecular Bioscience will bring together in one building scientists from several existing University research centres and the CSIRO to create a state-of-the-art working environment.

Research projects include genomics, developmental biology, cell biology, structural biology, chemistry and bioinformatics. Examples of this work include the study of diseases such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes and skin cancer.

For further information please contact: Meredith Jackson, Director, Marketing and Communications, The University of Queensland telephone (07) 3365 6060.