, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 167–184 | Cite as

National Ethics Advisory Bodies in the Emerging Landscape of Responsible Research and Innovation

  • Franc MaliEmail author
  • Toni Pustovrh
  • Blanka Groboljsek
  • Christopher Coenen
Original Paper


The article examines the role played by policy advice institutions in the governance of ethically controversial new and emerging science and technology in Europe. The empirical analysis, which aims to help close a gap in the literature, focuses on the evolution, role and functioning of national ethics advisory bodies (EABs) in Europe. EABs are expert bodies whose remit is to issue recommendations regarding ethical aspects of new and emerging science and technology. Negative experiences with the impacts of science and technology in the past have resulted in calls for increased transparency and broader participation and pluralism in expert advice and policy decision-making. Do national EABs function as inclusive, anticipatory “hybrid forums”? Or do they resemble more “classical” expert-oriented bodies, inspired by technocratic or decisionist approaches? As part of the empirical analysis of the role and functioning of institutional ethical advisory structures in 32 European countries, an extensive analysis of EAB websites and the content of publicly available documents on such institutions has been carried out, supplemented by an online survey of representatives of the EABs. One major finding of the empirical analysis is the very uneven distribution of “hybrid forum” features of EABs across Europe.


Bioethics Emerging technologies Europe Policy advice Public participation Responsible research and innovation 



This article was written with the support of the European Commission FP7 Science in Society funded project, Ethics in Public Policy Making: The Case of Human Enhancement (EPOCH), grant number SIS-CT-2010-266660 ( We warmly thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and all our partners in the EPOCH project for their constructive cooperation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franc Mali
    • 1
    Email author
  • Toni Pustovrh
    • 1
  • Blanka Groboljsek
    • 1
  • Christopher Coenen
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.Karlsruhe Institute of TechnologyKarlsruheGermany

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