Library completes archive of Presidential Bioethics Commission

The Kennedy Institute of Ethics’s Bioethics Research Library has completed its digital archive of the work of The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

The Commission was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama and served as an advisory panel of the nation’s leaders in medicine, science, ethics, religion, law, and engineering. It advised the President and the nation on bioethical issues arising from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.

“Hosting the materials of the Bioethics Commission is an example of the library’s mission to preserve and make accessible knowledge for future generations of researchers,” says Mark Hakkarinen, Head of the Bioethics Research Library. This mission is all the more pressing at a time of great churn in government websites with the advent of a new administration in Washington.

During its tenure, the Commission produced over 65 educational materials, and used its blog to announce the availability of new educational materials, including user guides, primers, classroom discussion guides, and deliberative scenarios. Blog posts also helped outline how to use the educational materials. The posts also highlighted topics including innovations in ethics education, and the importance of civic engagement. Finally, the Commission used the blog to announce and promote its podcast series Ethically Sound, a 10-episode series that focuses on some of the ethical issues raised in the commission’s reports.

The new archive joins existing archival materials relating to The President’s Council on Bioethics (2001-2009), The National Bioethics Advisory Commission (1996-2001), The President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and in Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1978-1983), and others. Hakkarinen explains that the Library’s uniquely comprehensive coverage of successive government committees and commissions makes it easier for researchers to connect the dots between what would otherwise be fairly disconnected educational outreach efforts under different administrations.

As of January 15, 2017, the Commission website will no longer be updated, but the complete work of the Commission, including all reports, materials, meeting transcripts, the Ethically Sound podcast series, study guides, and educational materials will be fully available in archive form.

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