A new national initiative to bring ethical thinking into pandemic policy-making launches today.
Joint UK pandemic ethics accelerator and University of Oxford press release
The UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator harnesses and mobilises the UK’s
internationally renowned expertise in ethics research. Four major UK
universities and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics form the
collaborative and have received £1.4M funding from the Arts and
Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Research and Innovation rapid response to covid.
The covid-19 crisis has demanded that policy-makers, researchers,
health and social care workers, and members of the public address
unprecedented ethical dilemmas every day. The complexity and speed by
which the challenges from covid-19 arise lead to harms on a significant
scale, some of which are inevitable while some may be avoidable.
The Accelerator provides rapid evidence, guidance and critical
analysis to inform policy and help improve decision-making. It also
supports, informs and promotes public debate around key ethical
challenges, and ensures that ethical thinking is embedded at the core of
future pandemic preparedness.
By coordinating and focusing national investment in ethics research,
the initiative will maximise the impact of ethical considerations across
science, medicine, policy and society. This approach should help
improve transparency and accountability, and improve public trust in
The collaborative’s Principal Investigator, Ilina Singh, Professor of
Neuroscience & Society in the Department of Psychiatry and
Co-Director of the Wellcome Centre for Ethics & Humanities at the
University of Oxford said: “This pandemic has raised enormous challenges
that require world-leading science together with world-leading ethics
to enable public trust and accountability. We are a vital partner in the
UK’s covid-19 research response infrastructure, ensuring it can be
guided by both ethical and scientific considerations.
“We have already helped to inform discussion around mass testing for
covid-19 and vaccine prioritisation, and we are now identifying issues
and supporting ethical decision-making across public health, policy,
medicine and education. We know that the burden of responsibility and
accountability for making everyday decisions has become a real source of
anxiety for people, so we will engage members of the public so we can
learn how to support them best. The collaborative is also thinking ahead
to what the post-covid pandemic landscape will look like, so we can
anticipate and help mitigate the structural inequalities it has laid
The Accelerator will initially address five key themes:
- Data use:
ethical challenges arising from large-scale data collection, access,
and use, such as those arising from the NHS tracking app and vaccine
- Foresight: ethical challenges arising from the current pandemic such as vaccine passports, and preparedness for future pandemic crises.
the values informing access to resources, such as vaccine distribution
and treatment triaging policies, the deployment of mass testing, and the
use of public health interventions such as quarantine.
- Public health and health inequalities:
identifying values and ethical challenges to inform equitable policy
and practice, given that the direct and indirect impacts of covid-19
have both underscored and exacerbated structural health inequalities.
- Public values, transparency and governance:
ensuring public attitudes and engagements inform policy-making when
individuals’ and societies’ core interests and values, including health,
well-being, equity, social justice and liberty, are at stake.
Notes to Editors
UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator
- The Accelerator’s Co-Investigators are:
- University of Bristol: Professor John Coggon
- University of Edinburgh: Dr Sarah Chan and Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley
- University of Oxford: Professors Dominic Wilkinson and Julian Savulescu
- University College London: Dr Melanie Smallman and Professor James Wilson
- Nuffield Council on Bioethics: Hugh Whittall
- UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator partners have so far delivered a
variety of papers on key issues arising in the pandemic such as vaccine
prioritisation and passporting; have engaged with the Government’s
review of immunity certification; and have given a number of media
interviews. Their work will also help develop a platform for ensuring
that ethical considerations are built into UK preparedness for its
response to future pandemics.
- Oxford University has been placed number 1 in the Times Higher
Education World University Rankings for the fifth year running, and at
the heart of this success is our ground-breaking research and
innovation. Oxford is world-famous for research excellence and home to
some of the most talented people from across the globe. Our work helps
the lives of millions, solving real-world problems through a huge
network of partnerships and collaborations. The breadth and
interdisciplinary nature of our research sparks imaginative and
inventive insights and solutions.
- The Oxford University Department of Psychiatry’s mission is to
conduct world-class research, teach psychiatry to medical students,
develop future researchers in a graduate programme, teach doctors in
training, promote excellence in clinical practice, and develop and
provide innovative clinical services. It supports research in four key
areas: neurobiology, psychological treatments, developmental psychiatry
and social psychiatry. The Department is committed to the translation of
scientific discovery into benefits for patients. www.psych.ox.ac.uk
Nuffield Council on Bioethics, on behalf of the UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator
Mobile: 07710 307059