The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical need for access to accurate and timely information about ethical issues surrounding decision-making in science, medicine, and public health. To provide this vital information broadly and effectively, the Berman Institute of Bioethics announced it will create a new program in public bioethics—fueled by $3 million in philanthropic support—called the Dracopoulos-Bloomberg Bioethics iDeas Lab.
"Virtually every aspect of our nation's response to COVID-19 involves an issue of bioethics," said Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Berman Institute. "Balance between personal freedom and public safety in wearing masks, the closing and reopening of schools and businesses, allocating scarce medical resources, safely developing vaccines, using new contact tracing technology, and more. Our public bioethics effort will significantly increase understanding about critically important issues in bioethics and ethics in science more generally. Higher levels of engagement with bioethics issues that impact our communities, locally, nationally, and internationally, will inform public discussion and debate and ultimately impact policy decisions."
The Dracopoulos-Bloomberg Bioethics iDeas Lab was named in recognition of Andreas C. Dracopoulos, a trustee of Johns Hopkins University and member of the Berman Institute of Bioethics' national advisory board, and Michael R. Bloomberg, former chair of the university's board of trustees. The lab will enable the Berman Institute to pioneer new approaches for creating bioethics content, and take advantage of new media strategies and innovative approaches to visualization of information and research results.
The $3 million contribution will support a physical space to house the iDeas Lab, provide new technology, and support professional staff and faculty colleagues devoted to the creation of digital, audio, and video content. Dracopoulos previously funded the creation of a similar lab at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C. The CSIS iDeas Lab was an early leader in bringing together their scholars with content producers, developers, and designers to create a compelling range of digital products of research.
"The iDeas Lab will make possible for the work of bioethics, ethics, and science more generally what the creation of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center provided for political leaders, journalists, and the public looking for authoritative thought leadership," said Kahn. "We will employ cutting edge techniques and technologies to share the research and analysis of our faculty on the most pressing issues facing our society."
Additional components of the public bioethics program will unfold in coming years, including high-profile bioethics events in Washington, D.C. Experts from the iDeas Lab will work with faculty across Johns Hopkins to devise new ways of sharing academic research with the public, and the Berman Institute will seek to add additional faculty with expertise in assessing the societal impact of increased public dissemination of public health scholarship.