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The University of California San Diego Division of Arts and Humanities addresses important issues surrounding emerging progress in medical discoveries, scientific research and technological innovations.

As one of the signature initiatives of the division, the Institute for Practical Ethics is formed as an interdisciplinary research unit within UC San Diego dedicated to the goal of creating socially responsible science and policy.


Vision and Mission

UC San Diego was founded by leaders who cared deeply about the ethics and social implications of science. Roger Revelle, a pioneer in the science of climate change, culminated his career here as a professor of science, technology and public affairs. Our first chancellor, Herbert York, was a physicist with the Manhattan Project who became an arms-control expert and ambassador to the Comprehensive Test Ban negotiations in the late 1970s.

Inspired by these institutional examples, the Institute for Practical Ethics is building upon existing strengths in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences to tackle new challenges.

It took decades for society to move from the horse to the car, from the vacuum tube to television. Today, by contrast, scientific and technological innovations are occurring at increasing speed and translated into society faster than ever before. Research into stem cells, genetic engineering, synthetic biology, robotics, driverless automobiles, big data and personalized medicine are but a few examples.

As a public institution, UC San Diego has a duty to help with these transitions. In response, this institute develops and promotes research on ethical issues facing the public, with special emphasis on fostering deliberation amongst ethicists, scientists and policy makers.

We believe that the Institute for Practical Ethics has a number of special strengths.

  • UC San Diego is one of the world’s greatest producers of technology, medical innovations and scientific knowledge. We are partnering with these scientists, offering a new model of ethics and science. Here, the scientists work with the ethicists and social scientists as they develop their science; in addition, the ethicists and social scientists learn the science and better understand the challenges it poses.
  • UC San Diego has highly ranked researchers not only in science but also in ethics, philosophy of science, social sciences and science studies. We draw upon excellence across many fields, as the institute is a unique partnership among social scientists, natural scientists and humanists on campus.
  • Ethics can be fruitfully conducted on an ideal level, and we want our work to be relevant to important topics facing individuals and society. To this end, we desire to include in our analysis the social structures that shape how ethics will actually operate in our society and of course the relevant natural science or technology.
With these strengths, the mission of the Institute for Practical Ethics is to develop and promote research on ethical issues facing the public, with special emphasis on fostering deliberation amongst ethicists, scientists, and policy makers.

We are making genuine progress toward developing socially responsible science.