The blog of the 2009 – 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Pedagogical Materials in Support of Bioethics Education

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (the Bioethics Commission) is pleased to announce the release of new pedagogical materials for bioethics education. An essay introducing the Bioethics Commission’s new materials and outlining the Commission’s commitment to bioethics education is featured in the newly published September-October 2013 issue of the Hastings Center Report.

The new materials comprise two sets of modules—one on informed consent and one on community engagement—that integrate content across the Bioethics Commission’s many reports. The modules are designed to support teaching of bioethics ideas, principles, and theories, with a focus on skill building, decision making, and incorporation of an ethical perspective into daily work. The modular format means they can be easily integrated into existing or standalone curricula in traditional and nontraditional educational settings, such as the classroom, the workplace, or Institutional Review Board training sessions.

Throughout its tenure, the Bioethics Commission has made repeated recommendations that bioethics education be made more readily available to a wider variety of disciplines at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional level (see Table).

At the most recent meeting of the Bioethics Commission in Philadelphia, Pa. (August 19-20, 2013), Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., Chair of the Bioethics Commission, and President of the University of Pennsylvania, heralded the release of the pedagogical materials: “One of our primary goals in these deliberations and our reports is to generate and promote practices of pedagogy in ethical conduct of research, innovation [and] health care delivery.”

The pedagogical materials are not intended to provide a comprehensive bioethics curriculum, but the Bioethics Commission hopes that, by providing instructors with contemporary examples of real-life ethical challenges addressed by a presidential commission, it can help advance its recommendations for ethics education improvements.

Watch the video Promoting and Providing Materials for Bioethics Education to learn more about the Bioethics Commission’s vision for bioethics education.

The new topic-oriented modules complement the Bioethics Commission’s report-specific educational materials, including A Study Guide to “Ethically Impossible” STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948, which was released in November 2011, and source data available for study of government supported research involving human participants.

The Bioethics Commission held a webinar on September 19, 2013 to introduce and review the pedagogical materials.  The webinar, Advancing Bioethics Education, can be viewed here.

All Bioethics Commission pedagogical materials are freely available at The Bioethics Commission encourages feedback on the materials at

Table: Ethics education and researcher responsibility recommendations made by the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, 2010-2012.


Recommendation Report Title Date
Recommendation 9:  Ethics EducationBecause synthetic biology and related research cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, ethics education similar or superior to the training required today in the medical and clinical research communities should be developed and required for all researchers and student-investigators outside the medical setting, including in engineering and materials science.  As part of the coordinated approach urged in Recommendation 4, the Executive Office of the President, in consultation with the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the scientific community, and the public, should convene a panel to consider appropriate and meaningful training requirements and models.  New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies December 2010
Recommendation 6:  Amend the Common Rule to Address Investigator ResponsibilitiesThe Common Rule should be revised to include a section directly addressing the responsibilities of investigators.  Doing so would bring it into harmony with the Food and Drug Administration regulations for clinical research and international standards that make the obligations of individual researchers more explicit, and contribute to building a stronger culture of responsibility among researchers. Moral Science:  Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research December 2011
Recommendation 7:  Expand Ethics Discourse and EducationTo ensure the ethical design and conduct of human subjects research, universities, professional societies, licensing bodies, and journals should adopt more effective ways of integrating a lively understanding of personal responsibility into professional research practice.  Rigorous courses in bioethics and human subjects research at the undergraduate as well as graduate and professional levels should be developed and expanded to include ongoing engagement and case reviews for investigators at all levels of experience. Moral Science:  Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research December 2011
Recommendation 2.1Funders of whole genome sequencing research; managers of research, clinical, and commercial databases; and policy makers should ensure the security of whole genome sequence data.  All persons who work with whole genome sequence data, whether in clinical or research settings, public or private, must be: 1) guided by professional ethical standards related to the privacy and confidentiality of whole genome sequence data and not intentionally, recklessly, or negligently access or misuse these data; and 2) held accountable to state and federal laws and regulations that require specific remedial or penal measures in the case of lapses in whole genome sequence data security, such as breaches due to the loss of portable data storage devices or hacking.  Privacy and Progress in Whole Genome Sequencing October 2012


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This is a space for the members and staff of the 2009 -2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to communicate with the public about the work of the commission and to discuss important issues in bioethics.

As of January 15th, 2017 this blog will no longer be updated but continues to be available as an archive of the work of the 2009-2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

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