cal, legal, and societal issues as circumstances change. Information from the assessment should be made available to modify the research proposal for mitigating ELSI concerns should that be appropriate.
2.c–Monitoring R&D projects for the emergence of ethical, legal, and societal issues and making midcourse corrections when necessary
Perfect prediction of significant ELSI concerns is virtually impossible, especially in an area as fraught with uncertainty as research on emerging and readily available technologies. Projects that seemed to raise significant ethical, legal, and societal issues may turn out to raise none; projects that seemed to have no ethical or societal implications may turn out to have hugely important consequences.
A process for monitoring the course of R&D projects is thus essential to help agencies to adjust to such changing realities. If the perceived ethical, legal, and societal issues change significantly during the course of a project (that is, if and when new issues are identified or previous attempts to address already-identified issues prove inadequate), the program or project plan can be modified accordingly. Such an adaptive approach plans for and relies on continual (or at least frequent) midcourse changes in response to such feedback.
A monitoring process could, in principle, be similar to the initial screening process, with the important proviso that the baseline be updated to take into account what has been learned since the project was last considered. To catch ethical, legal, and societal issues that may have appeared in the interim, the monitoring process should touch all projects in the agency’s R&D portfolio, so that projects that were previously determined not to raise ethical, legal, and societal issues can be reexamined. But the intent of this requirement is not to reopen a debate over a project as initially characterized but rather to see if new issues have arisen since the last examination—and in most cases, a project originally determined to not raise ethical, legal, and societal issues will retain that status upon reexamination. It may also be the case that projects originally determined to raise ethical, legal, and societal issues have evolved in such a way that it becomes clear that they do not.
2.d–Engaging with various segments of the public as needed
With the stipulation that engagement with various segments of the public does not necessarily mean coming to consensus with them, an agency’s ELSI deliberations will often benefit from such external engagement. For example, public concerns about a given R&D project are often formulated in ELSI terms rather than in technical terms. Policy makers