CALL FOR ABSTRACTS – Ethics in Engineering Biological & Ecological Systems

Workshop in Applied Philosophy

Plant growing out of a test tubeBiological and ecological problems are increasingly understood and approached from an engineering perspective.  In environmental contexts this is exemplified in the discourses around geoengineering, designer ecosystems, and assisted colonization.  In human health contexts it is exemplified in the discourses around synthetic biology, bionanotechnology, and human enhancement.  This workshop will bring together ethicists, philosophers, and others working on issues related to engineering complex biological and ecological systems. The workshop is designed to provide speakers with constructive feedback from colleagues working on related issues.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Andrew Light (Associate Professor, George Mason University and Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress)
  • Inmaculada de Melo-Martin (Associate Professor of Public Health and Medical Ethics, Cornell Medical College)

The Workshop on Applied Philosophy is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and Religion and the NSF funded Nanotechnology and Society Research Group at Northeastern University.


May 31, 2011: Deadline for submission of abstracts

Possible Paper Topics:

  • Evaluation of the engineering approach to environmental and human health issues
  • Ethical issues associated with particular environmental engineering practices or proposals—e.g. geoengineering, designer ecosystems, and re-wilding
  • Ethical issues associated with particular biological system engineering practices or proposals—e.g. synthetic biology, artificial life, and robust human enhancement.
  • The role of ethical considerations in policy and regulation regarding engineering biological and ecological systems (either in general or for particular areas, such as geoengineering or genetic enhancement)
  • Epistemological and decision theoretic issues that arise in the context of engineering ecological and biological systems

Submission Procedure:

Submit abstracts of no more than 750 words to Ronald Sandler.  Abstracts will be reviewed by a program committee.  Those selected for the program will be asked to submit papers one month prior to the workshop, and papers will be made available on the workshop website.  Papers can be of any length, but speakers will be limited to twenty-five minutes to present their ideas, followed by thirty minutes of discussion.

Conference Date & Location

Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, 2011
Northeastern University, Boston, MA