Consortium Introduction

The Consortium conducts original research, serves students and faculty, and advances public dialogue and understanding on emerging issues at the intersection of science and society.

Latest News

Kid holding pro-science sign

600 Marches for Science Held Globally

April 24, 2017

Marches highlighting the importance of science – both its methods and its goals – attracted massive crowds on April 22. The organizers called for the science march after the successful Women's March drew millions on January 21; the protest was a response to ominous signs from the Trump administration regarding its intention to suppress government activities related to climate change, cut research funding, and slash the budgets of federal agencies with a scientific mission. According to the New York Times, the flagship march in Washington drew large crowds (estimated at 40,000), with similar results being reported from across the nation. In St. Paul, a protest at the Capitol drew more than 10,000, and was one of 13 pro-science rallies held in Minnesota. According to the Star Tribune, "Notable events [were held] in London, Paris and Sydney. . . . Chicago, New York and Los Angeles were among the largest U.S. marches, and smaller events took place across the country." 

Doctor with patients and tablet computer

Research Ethics Videos Available

April 19, 2017

Videos are now available for sessions held during the two research ethics conferences presented at the University of Minnesota on March 8 and 9, 2017. At these events, researchers, policymakers, bioethicists, patient advocates and other stakeholders explored best practices for research with human participants. The conferences are The Future of Informed Consent: A Century of Law, Ethics & Innovation (March 8) and The Challenges of Informed Consent in Research with Children, Adolescents & Adults (March 9). The videos are posted at z.umn.edu/researchethicsvideos for free public access.

Julie Gerberding

All-star Panel Charts a New Course for Disaster Preparedness

April 17, 2017

Last week, the Consortium hosted the final of three lectures on Emerging Diseases in a Changing Environment, featuring Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, FACP. Dr. Gerberding is Executive Vice President at Merck and the former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In her talk, she described what she's learned about emergency preparedness through responses to anthrax, SARS and other biothreats, and proposed steps that should be taken to improve such responses. Dr. Gerberding was joined by Prof. Amy KircherDrPH (Director, Food Protection and Defense Institute) and Prof. Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH (Director, Center for Infectious Disease and Policy). In a lively conversation, they discussed pandemic threats and responses and from the perspectives of their disciplines, ultimately arriving at the importance of advance planning by collaborations such as the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to contain crises before they balloon out of control. A video of the entire event can be viewed here. Videos of the first lecture in the series, "Finches, Dogs, Lions and Zika: An Ecologist Looks at Emerging Disease" by Prof. Andrew Dobson, DPhil, can be viewed here. The second, "Ending the Pandemic Era: Science at the Animal-Human-Environmental Interface" by Jonna Mazet, DVM, MPVM, PhD, can be viewed here

FDA logo

FDA Approves Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Tests

April 6, 2017

In a turnaround for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency has announced it will "allow a company to sell genetic tests for disease risk directly to consumers," according to the New York Times23andMe, a private genomics and biotechnology company based in Mountain View, California, pioneered products to allow customers to learn about their genome without the involvement of a doctor, genetic counselor or other health care professional. There are two levels of test offered; the default will only include the gene variants that could lead to the development of 10 rare conditions such as factor XI deficiency, Gaucher disease type 1 and celiac disease. For the genes associated with illnesses such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, there is a separate track that includes access to genetic counselors. An attempt by 23andMe to offer similar direct-to-consumer tests in 2013 was quashed by the FDA because of concerns about how patients might misinterprete potentially bad news without professional guidance. However, according to Dr. Robert C. Green, a Consortium collaborator who has researched the matter, studies since then have "there is some potential for distress, but it is much, much smaller than was anticipated.” Read the entire article here

Updates

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The Consortium offers educational events, original research, grants and news about our member centers and like-minded colleagues at the University of Minnesota and beyond, as well as making most of our lectures and conferences available for free, public access. The best way to find out about these offerings is to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Connect with us today! 

Research Funding Awarded

Each year, the Consortium provides funding for intramural projects related to the societal implications of problems in health, environment, and the life sciences. This year six awards totaling $35,796 were made to to provide a stipend for research and writing in the Summer 2017 or academic year 2017-18. Learn more and review previous awards.

Frontiers in Research Ethics

On March 8-9, the Consortium hosted two conferences on informed consent, featuring nationally-known speakers. The first of them, The Future of Informed Consent in Research and Translational Medicine, focused on how informed consent ethics and policy have developed over the past century, and what tools are needed to improve patient and research participant protections going forward. The second, The Challenges of Informed Consent in Research with Children, Adolescents and Adultsanalyzed approaches to seeking consent from adults with diminished capacity; community-based participatory research; and pediatric assent and guardian permission. The latter conference kicked off the first-ever Research Ethics Day at the University of Minnesota, and concluded with trainings and workshops the afternoon of March 9. Videos of the conferences will be posted on this website within the next two weeks. You can view videos of all the conference sessions here