Recommendation 3: Interested agencies supporting R&D on emerging and readily available technologies of military significance should undertake an effort to educate and sensitize program managers to ethical, legal, and societal issues.

If funding agencies are to screen, assess, and monitor research proposals and projects for possibly significant ethical, legal, and societal issues, they will need people with the ability to recognize those issues. The fields that assess ELSI concerns arising with various technologies have their own vocabularies. At the very least, the agency personnel dealing with these issues will have to understand, at some level, the relevant “language.” At the same time, those with ELSI responsibilities and/or expertise must have some understanding of the underlying research in order to identify issues that may or may not emerge.

One crucial, and easily overlooked, aspect of building internal expertise is building history. If an agency has no institutional memory of what ethical, legal, and societal issues it has faced in its history, how it dealt with those issues, and what the consequences were, its ability to learn from that past is diminished. This diminished capability will be a particular problem for agencies that have frequent turnover. An interested agency needs to make it a priority to collect—and to use—information about how it has dealt with these issues. The agency person or group in charge of screening proposals or projects for ethical, legal, and societal issues might be in a good position to collect and organize that kind of information.

Recommendation 4: Interested agencies supporting R&D on emerging and readily available technologies of military significance should build external expertise in ethical, legal, and societal issues to help address such issues.

Not all expertise should be, or can be, internal to an agency. Agencies should seek advice from external experts because properly addressing some ELSI concerns will require a depth of knowledge that cannot realistically be expected of program managers or scientists. If such expertise is not immediately available, it should be cultivated. Such cultivation would have both immediate and longer-term benefits. It would help the agency directly by providing that expertise, but, in the longer run, it could also build knowledge, expertise, and even trust outside the agency about what it does about ethical, legal, and societal issues, and why.

The committee also makes one recommendation to research-performing institutions.



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