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The activities of the Institute for Practical Ethics center on increasing the amount of ethical research and deliberation on campus. To this end, activities include

  • High visibility international speakers and conferences on issues of global concern, for example: gene drive mosquitos, robotics, stem cells and big data.

Gene Drive Conference

The inaugural conference on the ethics and social implications of gene drives was held May 9-10, 2019, bringing together leading scientists and ethicists working toward an understanding of the impact of gene drive technology.

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"The Future of Nature"

The second Institute for Practical Ethics keynote address featured Emma Marris, environmental journalist and author.

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Emma Marris

Biomedical Ethics Seminars

The Biomedical Ethics Seminar Series sponsors one speaker a month and is held at the UC San Diego School of Medicine for faculty, staff and students.


Event Archive

Event: Plenary Address of the Ethics and Social Implications of Gene Drive Conference
Title: The Ethics of Using Gene Drives in Conservation
Date: Thursday, May 9, 2019
Location: Roth Auditorium at Sanford Consortium

Professor Ronald Sandler of Northeastern University will deliver the plenary address.

Event: Ethics and Social Implications of Gene Drive Conference
Date: Friday, May 10, 2019
Location: Divisible Conference Room at Sanford Consortium


8:30  9:00 am: Light Breakfast

9:00 – 9:15 am: Welcome: John Evans and Craig Callender, Co-Directors

9:15 – 11:45 am: Panel 1

  • 9:15 – 9:45 am: Daniel Callies, Bednets or Biotechnology: Prioritizing Current or Future Persons?
  • 9:45 –10:15 am: Paul B. Thompson, Social Amplification of Gene Drive Risks: Bioethics Beyond Informed Consent
  • 10:15 – 10:45 am: Cinnamon Bloss, Genetic Engineering in the Golden State: California Residents’ Diverse Perspectives on Gene Drives for Vector Control
  • 10:45 – 11:15 am: Claudia Emerson, The Ethics of Using Gene Drive for Malaria Elimination: The Philosophical and The Practical
  • 11:15 – 11:45 am: Panel 1 Discussion

11:45 am – 1:00 pm: Lunch

1:00 – 3:00 pm: Panel 2

  • 1:00 – 1:30 pm: Jennifer Kuzma, Integrating Science and Values in Risk Governance and Regulatory Review of Gene Drives 
  • 1:30 – 2:00 pm: Christopher Preston, What’s New, What’s Old, and What’s Resonating in the Nascent Ethics of Gene Drives Discussion
  • 2:00 – 2:30 pm: Ramya Rajagopalan, Ecologies of Susceptibility:  Gene Drives, Values, and Ethical Orientations
  • 2:30 – 3:00 pm: Panel 2 Discussion

3:00 – 3:15 pm: Coffee Break

3:15 – 5:15 pm: Panel 3

  • 3:15 – 3:45 pm: Yasha Rohwer, Gene drives, Species, and Compassion for Individuals in Conservation Biology
  • 3:45 – 4:15 pm: Amy Zhou, Perceptions of Risk Among Gene Drive Stakeholders: Scientists, Conservationists, and Global Health Professionals
  • 4:15 – 4:45 pm: Samuel Weiss Evans, Science Governance through Anomaly-Handling: The Case of Gene Drives 
  • 4:45 – 5:15 pm: Panel 3 Discussion

5:15 – 5:30 pm: Wrap-up, Discussion, and Concluding Remarks: Craig Callender, Co-Director

Talk: “The Future of Nature: Conservation in the Anthropocene”
Date: April 24, 2019

The institute’s second yearly keynote address featured Emma Marris, an environmental journalist and author. Emma Marris is a reporter who explores conservation, ecology, energy, agriculture, food, language, books, and film. Her stories have appeared in National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, and, above all, Nature, where she worked as a staffer for several years. In 2011, she published her first book, “Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World.”

TalkGene-drive before CRISPR -- the Evolutionary ABCs
March 6, 2019

Location: HSS Building, Room 3027, UC San Diego

Prof. Elliott Sober is Hans Reichenbach Professor and William F. Vilas Research Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prof. Sober is also Visiting Tata Chancellor’s Professor of Philosophy at UC San Diego.

Abstract: CRISPR is a very new technology, but the evolutionary processes it induces have existed in nature for a very long time. My goal today is to explain the basic principles that allow one to understand those processes.

This event is sponsored by Department of Philosophy and the Gene Drive Working Group of the Institute for Practical Ethics.

Workshop: Evidence and the Scientific Method: Rigor vs. Use
March 4, 2019

Location: HSS Building, Room 7077, UC San Diego

There is frequently a trade-off between the conclusions that can be established by rigorous research methods and the conclusions that we need for immediate use in policy and planning.

Talk: Inference Patterns in Clinical Reasoning (Brown Bag Lunch)
February 25, 2019
HSS Building, Room 7077, UC San Diego

Atocha Aliseda, Professor at the Institute for Philosophical Research, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, will deliver this guest talk.

Lecture: Deregulation by Code
Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2019
CSE 1202

Speaker: Sumandro Chattapadhyay, Research Director, The Centre for Internet and Society, Delhi and Bangalore

At an event organised by a leading organisation supporting and investing in Indian digital start-ups in 2015, Nandan Nilekani offered this provocation: "are we at a WhatsApp Moment in finance?"

This talk is co-sponsored by the Institute for Practical Ethics, South Asia Initiative, Halicioglu Data Science Institute, Science Studies, Department of Communication, and Design@Large.

Seminar: Should Physicians Ever Challenge Patients’ Values? (Biomedical Ethics Series) 
February 20, 2019
Biomedical Research Facility II, Room 2A03

Dan Brudney, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago and Associate Faculty, MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics.

Workshop: Ethics and Policy Implications of Algorithms and Big Data  
Friday, February 15 and Saturday, February 16, 2019
The Forum at the Price Center (Friday) / The Village 15th Floor, Rooms 15A & 15B (Saturday)

In conjunction with the HDSI and Division of Social Sciences, the IPE is co-sponsoring Ethics and Policy Implications of Algorithms and Big Data. This workshop will address the rise of Big Data; the combination of the production and retrieval of large amounts of digital information with powerful algorithms on a hardware platform of ever-increasing capacity. It will gather social and computer scientists, activists, and practitioners interested in the ethics and policy implications of this technological revolution. We will survey the achievements, promises and technical challenges of Big Data, its effects on social inequalities and democracy, the cultural shift it is generating in the way we value knowledge, create art and conduct science, and the ways we may control it and influence its progress.

Please see the event website for more information.

Seminar: Patient Autonomy Since the National Research Act (Biomedical Ethics Series) 
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Biomedical Research Facility II, Room 2A03

Cathy Gere, Professor of History, UC San Diego, will explore some of the transformations in the idea of patient autonomy between the passing of the National Research Act in 1974 and the present. Undoing some of the standard narratives of bioethics, the talk will examine the whitewash of American human experimentation in the Belmont Report, the connection between AIDS activism and the deregulation of the pharmaceutical industry, the rise of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicine, and some of the models of human decision-making coming out of neuroeconomics and behavioral economics. 

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Practical Ethics.

Symposium: Where Do Religion and Biomedical Research Ethics Meet? An Islamic Perspective
Date: Thursday, November 29, 2018
3:00 - 6:00 p.m. (Middle Eastern food will be served)
MET Building, Room 145, UC San Diego School of Medicine

In the rapid advancements of biomedical science and technology, ethical principles are required to guide researchers and determine the impact on society and their health. Major religions and their moral values and processes can overlap with research ethical principles and guide, advance or prevent such technologies and their acceptance by large populations globally. The symposium will provide some insight about ethically challenging biomedical advances with a focus on the religion of Islam and its followers. We have an exciting line up of three UC San Diego faculty and three visiting faculty from Jordan University of Science and Technology.

This event is co-sponsored by the IPE's Faculty Seed Grant program.

Lecture: May We Make the World?: Religious and Ethical Questions - Gene Drives, Malaria and the Duties of History (Burke Lecture Series, History, UC San Diego)
Date: Thursday, November 15, 2018
Great Hall, International House, UC San Diego

Laurie Zoloth, Ph.D., is Senior Advisor of the Provost, Programs in Social Ethics at the University of Chicago. A leader in the field of bioethics and Jewish studies, Laurie Zoloth’s research explores religion and ethics, drawing from Biblical and Talmudic texts to postmodern Jewish philosophy, including the writings of Emmanuel Levinas.  She studies the ethics of genetic engineering, stem cell research, synthetic biology, social justice in health care, and the pedagogy of science and medicine. She also studies the practices of inter-religious dialogue and the role of religion public discussion and policy.

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Practical Ethics.

Seminar: Brain Death Uncertainty: Growing Challenges to Its Legal Status (Biomedical Ethics Series)
Date: November 19, 2018
Location: Medical Education and Telemedicine Building (MET), Room 145

The determination of death by neurological criteria, commonly known as "brain death," has been legally settled for nearly 40 years in the United States. However, that consensus has become increasingly unraveled. This talk reviews three new types of court challenges to the legal status of brain death in the United States.

  1. The law in every state declares that if an individual has sustained "irreversible" cessation of "all" functions of the "entire" brain, they are dead, but the diagnostic tests that clinicians use are not designed to, and cannot, evaluate or ascertain this information.
  2. A requirement that clinicians obtain surrogate consent to administer the apnea test, a key component of brain death assessment. Families that have successfully objected to the apnea test have been able to prevent clinicians from declaring the patient dead.
  3. The contention that clinicians must indefinitely accommodate religious objections to brain death.

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Practical Ethics.

Seminar: Illness, Challenges to the Self, and the Power of Empathic Curiosity (Biomedical Ethics Series)
Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Time: 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Location: Medical Education and Telemedicine Building, Room 145

For clinicians to address the challenges to the self that their patients face in the wake of health losses, they need to recognize the emotional and social disruptions that illness can trigger. Physicians and other healthcare providers also need to recognize the role of their own emotional reactivity in prognosticating future quality of life when patients are in crises. More than contextual knowledge, this requires reflective awareness of how their own humanness and that of the patient co-construct implicit assumptions about the patient's future possibilities. The skill necessary for this is empathic curiosity, which is distinct from compassion and other positive attitudes in its aim of discovery--of knowing more about what in particular this individual patient is going through. Empathic curiosity can also be self-directed, and this is a crucial therapeutic tool not only for physicians but for patients to use in their own long-term healing.

Jodi Halpern, M.D., Ph.D. is Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at UC Berkeley and co-founder of the Berkeley Group for the Ethics and Regulation of Innovative Technologies. Her work brings together psychiatry, philosophy, affective forecasting and decision neuroscience. Her first book, From Detached Concern to Empathy: Humanizing Medical Practice was called a “seminal work” by JAMA. Her upcoming book Remaking the Self in the Wake of Illness critically analyzes narratives of resiliency. Halpern’s current scholarship elucidates how innovative technologies, including AI, VR and genetic engineering, change relationships in unexpected ways. Halpern also leads a research program examining the emotional beliefs that motivate people to participate in novel gene modification clinical trials and is extending this work to neuro-technology. Halpern is invited to present her work internationally, including at the 2018 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. See

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP on Eventbrite

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Practical Ethics.

Lecture: Ethical Boundaries of Research with Human Embryos
Date: Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Time: 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Location: Fleet Science Center, Community Forum

Since stem cells were first cultured from human embryos in 1998, the ethical considerations surrounding this technology have been widely debated, leading to establishment of specific limits on how this research is conducted and funded. Join us for this program to learn more about these scientific advances, to discuss the implications of these discoveries for improving human health, and to consider how ethical norms can best be integrated into research and practice.

Speakers: Dr. Mana Parast, M.D., Ph.D.; Dr. Louise Laurent, M.D., Ph.D.; and Prof. John H. Evans, Co-Director of the Institute for Practical Ethics.

Co-sponsored by the Institute for Practical Ethics and the Division of Arts and Humanities.

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP on Eventbrite.

Lecture: The Human Contexts of Computation and Data: Infrastructures, Institutions, and Interpretations
Date: Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Time: 4:00 pm
Location: CSE Building, Room 1202

Please RSVP on Eventbrite.

Dr. Stuart Geiger is a staff ethnographer and postdoctoral scholar at the UC-Berkeley Institute for Data Science. He studies the infrastructures and institutions that support the production of knowledge, focusing on how advances in computation and data are changing how we know what we know. He completed his Ph.D at UC-Berkeley in the School of Information and the Berkeley Center for New Media, and his work has been published in venues including CSCW, CHI, ICWSM, American Behavioral Scientist, Information, Communication & Society, and Big Data & Society. He is a methodological and disciplinary pluralist, integrating approaches from across the humanities, the interpretivist and quantitative social sciences, and computer, information, and data science. Stuart is also a founding member of UC-Berkeley’s cross-departmental working groups on Data Science Studies, Algorithms in Culture, and Algorithmic Fairness & Opacity.


The statistical techniques and computational infrastructures of artificial intelligence and data science are increasingly built into products, platforms, organizations, and institutions of all kinds. Yet the collection, curation, and analysis of data has always been as social as it is technical. Even in the most automated, “data-driven” systems, there is always human labor in designing, developing, deploying, documenting, debating, maintaining, managing, manipulating, training, triaging, translating, using, and not using such systems. In focusing on the human contexts of computation and data across the pipeline, we gain key insights into various issues across fields, as well as new possibilities for collaboratively producing knowledge. I will discuss several cases from my ethnographic research empirically studying institutions and infrastructures that support the production and distribution of knowledge. These include: how Wikipedians automate quality control while seeking to keep humans in the loop and uphold their principles of openness and decentralization; how targets of coordinated harassment campaigns on Twitter developed tools to help moderate their own experiences; the academic career paths of those who practice and support data science; the sustainability of open source communities that develop and maintain key software tools; and the interpretation of findings made from large-scale analyses of social data.

This event is co-sponsored by Design@Large and the Institute for Practical Ethics.

Seminar: Using Theatre to Foster Ethics and Science Conversations (Biomedical Ethics Series)
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
4:30 - 6:00 p.m.
Medical Teaching Facility, Room 175

UCSD School of Medicine

CME credit available

Light refreshments


It is widely understood that one of the most important determinants of ethical behavior is an organization's culture, and that culture is not defined simply by an ethical code, online training, or even a single classroom course. One potentially valuable tool to induce the necessary reflection, conversation, and empathy is the staging of live theatre. Staged readings of academic dramas are an economical, engaging, and useful approach to foster a culture of ethics in science. Join us for this discussion of goals, recent staged readings, and possible implications for UC San Diego.

Speaker Bios

Emily Roxworthy, Department of Theatre and Dance, UCSD 

Michael Kalichman, Director, Research Ethics Program/Dept. of Pathology, UCSD

Open to the UCSD community and interested others.

Visitor parking information:

Workshop and Lecture:  Prof. Virginia Eubanks, Political Science, SUNY Albany

Dr. Eubanks will lecture on Wednesday at 4pm in CSE1202. Thursday at 4pm, she will lead a workshop discussion on how researchers engage in public debates on inequality. She has generously made herself available for one-on-one meetings during her visit as well. Please share with relevant networks.

Her visit is co-sponsored by the Design Lab and the Institute for Practical Ethics.

Wednesday, May 2: Lecture - Automating Inequality (4:00 pm in CSE 1202)

Today, automated systems control which neighborhoods get policed, which families attain needed resources, and who is investigated for fraud. While we all live under this new regime of data analytics, the most invasive and punitive systems are aimed at the poor.

Thursday, May 3: Workshop: Methods and Message (4:00 pm in MCC 250)

How do we make our choices around methods, storytelling, and political engagement matter when we intervene in public debates on issues of inequality? Stories about science and technology are particularly challenging as they often implicitly reproduce dominant narratives of inequality. Join Virginia Eubanks, author of Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police and Punish the Poor for a conversation about academic research, long-form journalism, and how we chose to frame our messages. We welcome participation of people in any stage of writing, reporting, community, or academic work. 

Dr. Shapiro

The Institute for Practical Ethics celebrates its official launch at the University of California, San Diego with an exciting lecture by Dr. Beth Shapiro, Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Dr. Shapiro will deliver a talk entitled, "Can We, Should We, and Will We Bring Back Mammoths?" Dr. Shapiro's work focuses on using ancient DNA to infer evolutionary history and processes. Dr. Shapiro is the MacArthur Award-winning author of How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction, which considers the feasibility and desirability of bringing back passenger pigeons, steppe bison, mammoth and other currently extinct species.

Dr. Shapiro's lecture will be followed by a reception.


Date: Thursday, April 19, 2018
Time: 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Location: Atkinson Pavilion, The Faculty Club @ UC San Diego

Staged Reading: PURELY ACADEMIC, a play about science and ethics 
Date #1: Thursday, April 12, 2018
Time: 5:00 - 7:00 pm (refreshments at 4:30 pm)
Location: Room 107, Leichtag Biomedical Research Building

Date #2: Friday, April 13, 2018
Time: 4:00 - 6:00 pm (refreshments at 3:30 pm)
Location: Garren Auditorium, Biomedical Science Building

The Research Ethics Program is hosting staged readings of PURELY ACADEMIC, a play about science and ethics by Dr. David Abramson, a professor of computer science at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Plot: Charles Mittleman (played by David Price) sets out to pursue a successful academic career. He knows exactly where he wants to be, and he aims to get there as quickly as possible. He gets a PhD and rises rapidly through the academic ranks, trampling anyone and anything that stands in his way—including his well‐intentioned mentor, Professor Holywell (Deanna Driscoll). Invincible, he reaches the pinnacle of his career and a bright future awaits, only for his past to return and challenge him.

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Practical Ethics through the Faculty Seed Grant Program.

Symposium: 4th Annual Public Health Research Day Symposium and Poster Session 
Date: Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Time: 1:30 to 5:00 pm
Location: Medical Education and Telemedicine Building (MET), UCSD School of Medicine Campus

Please RSVP here:

Symposium Presenters:

Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD (Rosalind E. Franklin Professor of Genetics and Craig-Weaver Professor of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University), who will speak on the topic of "Putting Genomics in Context to Promote Health" and Douglas Zeidonis, MD, MPH (UC San Diego Associate Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences), who will address "The Future of Public Health at UC San Diego."

More than 100 posters showcasing public health research accomplishments and activities of the UC San Diego Public Health community.

For more information, please see here:

For questions, please contact:

Lecture: Genetic Manipulation in the Age of Biocapitalism: Commerce, Consumers, and CRISPR/Cas-9
Date: Monday, March 26, 2018
Time: 2:00 to 3:00 pm
Location: Marilyn Farquhar Conference Room, Center for Neural Circuits and Behavior (CNCB)

Daniel Kevles will discuss historical and public policy issues related to modern genetics, especially the potential for applications of genome editing to emerging pressures toward a new eugenics movement in the U.S. and elsewhere. Prof. Kevles is a historian and ex-faculty chair at Cal Tech, emeritus professor of history and Law at Yale, and since his retirement, he is visiting professor at Columbia and NYU. He is best known for his 1985 book In the Name of Eugenics as well as for the 1998 The Baltimore Case.

Co-sponsored by the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS), the Institute for Practical Ethics, and the Center for Genetic Therapies.

Please contact Kate O'Shaughnessy ( for any questions about this event.

Seminar:  Art and Medicine (Biomedical Ethics Series)

Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Biomedical Research Facility 2, Room 2A03

Ted Meyer, LA artist, will discuss art and medicine. RSVP REQUIRED: Email  

Lecture:  Sociogenomics: An Emerging Ethos
Date: Thursday, January 25, 2018
Time: 12:30 – 1:50 p.m.
Location: Social Science Building (SSB) 101

Catherine Bliss, Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of California, San Francisco, and author of the forthcoming book, Social by Nature: The Promise and Peril of Sociogenomics (Stanford University Press 2018). Co-sponsored by the Department of Sociology and the Institute for Practical Ethics.

Seminar: Putting ‘Race’ on the Table: Voicing and Silencing Race and Ethnicity in News Coverage of Health and Medicine (Biomedical Ethics Series)
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Biomedical Research Facility 2, Room 1102

Dan Hallin, Professor, Dept. of Communication, UC San Diego.

Lecture: The Roads To and From the Paris Climate Agreement (Ethics in the Public Sphere Series)
Date: Friday, December 1, 2017
Time: 5:00 - 8:00 p.m. (Talk and Q&A, reception to follow)
Location: Faculty Club

Click here to read Prof. Light's lecture notes!

Andrew Light, University Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Atmospheric Sciences, and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University. He is also a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C. Organized by the Department of Philosophy. Co-sponsored by the Institute for Practical Ethics.

In December 2015, over 190 countries met in Paris for the 21st meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change where they succeeded in creating a new international climate agreement. Many have heralded the outcome as a groundbreaking achievement for international diplomacy and global climate action. Others have argued that the climate commitments that parties brought to the table in Paris are ultimately too weak to achieve the agreements’ lofty aspirations.  Whichever is true, the agreement is now undergoing an early and serious stress test with the announcement of the intended withdraw of the United States from the agreement. To better understand the significance of the Paris Agreement, and why it is worth fighting for its preservation, we will review the recent history of the UN climate negotiations, and how this outcome evolved from earlier failed attempts in this process, finally overcoming the immense hurdle of assigning responsibility for hitting global mitigation targets. From there we will look at what the future holds for global climate cooperation, including new opportunities for enhanced climate action.

Free and open to the public; no RSVP required.

Seminar: Race and Medicine (Biomedical Ethics Series)
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Medical Teaching Facility (MTF), Room 175

Michael O. Hardimon, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, will discuss race and medicine.

Seminar: Euthanasia (Biomedical Ethics Series)
Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Time: 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Medical Teaching Facility (MTF), Room 175

Faye Girsh, PhD, Former President of the Hemlock Society, will discuss euthanasia.

Workshop: Skepticism and Open-mindedness in Science
Date: Friday, October 6, 2017
Time: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Location: The Village 15A 

Confirmed speakers include Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, David Brin, science fiction author, Jamy Ian Swiss, magician and skeptic, Ken Wharton, physicist, Asheley Landrum, psychologist, and others.

Organized by Craig Callender and V. S. Ramachandran. Co-sponsored by the Institute for Practical Ethics and the Science Studies Program.

For more information, please see the event website here.