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Opinion on Strengthening the Ethics and Governance in Science and Technology [China]

In recent days, the Central Office of the Communist Party of China and the Office of the State Council have issued an Opinion on Strengthening the Ethics and Governance of Science and Technology, and issued a circular requiring all national and reginal ministries, departments to implement it carefully into practice.

The original Chinese version is at:

http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/2022-03/20/content_5680105.htm

The full text of the Opinion on Strengthening the Ethics and Governance in Science and Technology is set out as the following.

The ethics in Science and technology are values and behavioral norms that need to be followed in carrying out scientific and technological activities, such as scientific research and technological development, and are important guarantees for the healthy development of Science and technology. Nowadays, Scientific and technological innovations are developing rapidly in China, and we are facing increasing challenges to the ethics in Science and technology, while there are still problems of inadequate institutions and mechanisms, inadequate institutions and uneven developments in different fields for ethics in Science and technology. This has led to difficulties to adapt to the realities of the development of science and technology. In order to further improve the systems on the ethics in Science and technology, enhancing the capacity of ethics and governance of Science and technology, effectively controlling the risks on the ethics in Science and technology, constantly promoting Science and technology for good, for the benefit of humankind, and achieving a high level of technological independence, the following opinions are made for strengthening the ethics and governance of Science and technology.

I. GENERAL REQUIREMENTS

1. Guiding Ideas. Under the Guidance of the Xi Jinping thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, and deeply implement the spirits of the CPC’s 19th National Congress and the plenary sessions, adhere to and strengthen the Party’s central leadership to the work related to Science and technology, speed up the construction of the systems on the ethics in Science and technology with Chinese characteristics, improve the systems on the ethics and governance of science and technology with multi-stakeholder participation and cooperative governance, adhere to the unification of promoting innovation and avoiding risks, strengthen the bottom-line thinking and risk awareness, construct and improve the system of ethics in Science and technology in line with the country’s national circumstances and the international community, shape the culture and the safeguard mechanisms for Science and technology for good, achieving the high-quality development of scientific and technological innovation and high-level, safe, and good interactions, promote the healthy development of Science and technology, provide strong scientific and technological support for the promotion of human well-being and the construction of a human community of shared future.

2. Governance Requirements

– Ethics first. Strengthening governance at the source, paying attention to preventions, embedding the requirements on the ethics in Science and technology to the entire process of scientific and technological activities such as scientific research and technological development, promoting the coordinated development and benign interactions between scientific and technological activities and ethics in Science and technology, and achieving responsible innovation.

– In accordance with the rule of law and regulations. Persisting in carrying out work related to ethics and governance of science and technology in accordance with the rule of law and regulations, and accelerating the construction of a legal system for ethics and governance of Science and technology.

– Agile governance. Strengthening the early warning, tracking and judgment on ethical risks of scientific and technological activities, timely and dynamically adjusting governance methods and ethical norms as required, and quickly and flexibly responding to ethical challenges brought by scientific and technological innovations.

Based on national circumstances. Construct and improve the ethical system of science and technology adapted to our national circumstances based on the historical stages and socio-cultural characteristics of our country’s scientific and technological development, and in accordance with the rules of scientific and technological innovation.

– Openness and cooperation. Adhering to the vision of open development, strengthening foreign exchanges, establishing a multi-stakeholder coordination and cooperation mechanism, gathering consensus, and form a synergy. Actively promoting global ethics and governance of science and technology, and contributing Chinese wisdom and Chinese solutions.

II. CLARIFYING THE ETHICAL PRINCIPLES OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Promote human well-being. Scientific and technological activities should adhere to the people-centric development thinking, which is conducive to promoting economic development, social progress, improvement of people’s livelihood, and to ecological and environmental protection, to continuously enhance people’s sense of gain, happiness and security, and to promote the peaceful development and sustainable development of human society.

2. Respect for the right to life. Scientific and technological activities should avoid harm or potential threats to the safety of human life, physical health, mental and psychological health to the greatest extent, respect human dignity and personal privacy, and ensure the right to know and to choose of participants in scientific and technological activities. The use of laboratory animals should meet the requirements of “reduction, substitution, optimization”, etc.

3. Adhere to fairness and justice. Scientific and technological activities should respect differences in religious beliefs, cultural traditions, etc., should treat different social groups fairly, justly and inclusively, and prevent discrimination and prejudice.

4. Control risks reasonably. Scientific and technological activities should objectively assess and prudently treat the risks of uncertainty and technological applications, should strive to avoid and prevent risks that may be triggered, prevent misuse and abuse of scientific and technological outcomes, and avoid endangering the safety and security of society, the public, biology, and ecology.

5. Be open and transparent. Scientific and technological activities should encourage the reasonable participation of stakeholders and the social public, and establish a disclosure mechanism for scientific and technological activities involving major and sensitive ethical issues. The publication of information related to scientific and technological activities should be more transparent and objective.

III. REFINING THE SYSTEM ON THE ETHICS AND GOVERNANCE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Improve the government’s management system for ethics in science and technology. The National Committee for Ethics in Science and technology is responsible for guiding, coordinating and promoting the construction of the national system for ethics in Science and technology. The Ministry of Science and technology undertakes the daily work of the Secretariat of the National Committee for Ethics in Science and technology, and in accordance with the division of duties, the member units of the National Committee for Ethics in Science and technology are responsible for the formulation, review, regulation, publicity and education of ethical norms for science and technology, and other related work. Each local and relevant industry competent department is specifically responsible for the work related to ethics and governance in science and technology of its own locality and system in accordance with its duties, powers, and affiliations.

2. Compaction of the main responsibility for the management of ethics in science and technology of the main body. Colleges and universities, scientific research institutes, medical and health institutes, enterprises and other units should perform the main responsibility for the management of ethics in science and technology. They should establish a normalized working mechanism, strengthen the daily management of ethics in science and technology, take the initiative to investigate and judge, and promptly resolve the ethical risks in the scientific and technological activities of their own units. They should also establish a (review) committee for Ethics in Science and technology of their own units according to the actual situation, and provide the necessary conditions for them to carry out their work independently. Units engaged in scientific and technological activities such as Life Sciences, Medicine, and Artificial Intelligence, and where the research content involves sensitive areas of ethics in science and technology, shall establish (review) committee of ethics in science and technology.

3Give play to the role of scientific and technological social groups. Promote the establishment of the Chinese Society of Ethics in Science and technology, improve the social organization system for the ethics and governance of Science and technology, and strengthen academic research support. Relevant societies, associations, and other scientific and technological social groups should organize and mobilize scientific and technological personnel to actively participate in ethics and governance of science and technology, promote industry self-discipline, strengthen cooperation with colleges and universities, scientific research institutes, medical and health institutes, enterprises, etc., carry out publicity and popularization of knowledge related to ethics in Science and technology, and improve the public’s awareness on ethics in Science and technology.

4. Guide scientific and technological personnel to consciously abide by the requirements of ethics in Science and technology. Scientific and technological personnel should take the initiative to learn knowledge related to ethics in Science and technology, enhance the awareness of ethics in science and technology, consciously implement the ethical principles of science and technology, adhere to the bottom line of ethics in science and technology, and take the initiative to report and resolutely resist acts that violate the requirements of ethics in science and technology. The persons in charge of scientific and technological projects shall carry out research in strict accordance with the scope of the review and approval for ethics in science and technology, shall strengthen the management of ethics in the whole process for team members and projects, and shall comply with relevant regulations and be rigorous and prudent when publishing, disseminating and applying research results involving sensitive issues related to ethics in Science and technology.

IV. STRENTHENING THE INSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS FOR THE ETHICS AND GOVERNANCE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Formulate and improve the norms and standards for ethics in Science and technology. Formulate norms, guidelines, etc. on the ethics in Science and technology for key areas such as Life sciences, medicine, and Artificial Intelligence, improve relevant standards and clarify requirements for the ethics in Science and technology, and guide scientific and technological institutions and personnel to carry out scientific and technological activities in compliance.

2. Establish the review and regulation institutions for ethics in Science and technology. Clarify the responsibilities for review and regulation on ethics in science and technology, and improve the rules and processes on the review for the ethics in Science and technology, risk disposal, and violation handling. Establish and improve the establishment standards, operating mechanisms, registration policy, regulation policy, etc. of the (Review) Committee on the ethics in Science and technology, and explore certification mechanisms for the (Review) Committee on the ethics in Science and technology.

3. Raise the level of rule of law for ethics and governance of science and technology. Promote the basic legislation of scientific and technological innovation to make clear provisions on the governance work such as the regulation on the ethics in Science and technology, and the investigation and handling of violations, and implement the requirements on ethics in Science and technology in other relevant legislation. During the “14th Five-Year Plan” period, we should focus on strengthening the research on legislation for ethics in science and technology in the fields of Life Sciences, Medicine, and Artificial Intelligence, and timely promote the upgrading of important norms on ethics in Science and technology into national laws and regulations. Where there are already clear provisions in the law, adhere to enforcing the law strictly and punish those who violate the law.

4. Strengthen theoretic research on the ethics in Science and technology. Support relevant institutions, think tanks, social groups, scientific and technological personnel, etc. to carry out theoretical explorations on the ethics in Science and technology, strengthen forward-looking research on ethical issues in scientific and technological innovation, and actively promote and participate in the discussions and rule-making of major issues related to ethics in Science and technology in the global context.

V. STRENTHENING REVIEW AND REGULATION ON THE ETHICS IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Strict review on the ethics in science and technology. Scientific and technological activities should be subject to risk assessment and review for ethics in Science and technology. Scientific and technological activities involving humans and laboratory animals shall be examined and approved by the (review) committee of ethics in science and technology of the unit in accordance with regulations, and units that do not have the conditions for establishing a (review) committee of ethics in science and technology shall entrust the (review) committee of other units to carry out the review. The (review) committee in science and technology should adhere to the principles of science, independence, fairness and transparency, and carry out the review, regulation and guidance on the ethics in Science and technology for scientific and technological activities, and earnestly handle issues related to ethics in Science and technology. Explore the establishment of professional and regional review centers for ethics in Science and technology. Gradually establish a mechanism for mutual recognition on the review results for ethics in science and technology.

Establish and improve the emergency review mechanisms for ethics in science and technology for emergent public health events like emergent activities, improve the procedures and rules for emergency review, and achieve rapid response.

2. Strengthening the regulation on the ethics in Science and technology. All localities and competent departments of relevant industries should improve and improve the regulatory framework and institutional norms for ethics in science and technology of their own, should strengthen the regulation and management of the (review) committees for ethics in science and technology, should establish an expert review mechanism for the results of review of high-risk scientific and technological activities for ethics in science and technology, should organize the investigation and handling of major cases related to ethics in Science and technology, and use typical cases to strengthen warning and education. Units engaged in scientific and technological activities should establish and improve mechanisms for the regulation related to the ethics in Science and technology in the whole process of scientific and technological activities, as well as review quality control, supervision and evaluation mechanisms, and strengthen dynamic tracking, risk assessment, and emergency handling of ethical incidents in high-risk scientific and technological activities. The National Committee on the Ethics in Science and Technology shall study and formulate a list of high-risk scientific and technological activities for ethics in science and technology. Carrying out scientific and technological activities with high risks from the perspective of ethics in science and technology shall be registered in accordance with regulations.

The scientific and technological plans (special projects, funds, etc.) established by the financial funds should strengthen the regulation in ethics in Science and technology, and the regulation should comprehensively cover all aspects of the preparation of guidelines, review and approval of projects, process management, closing acceptance, supervision and evaluation, etc.

Strengthen the review and regulation in ethics in Science and technology for international cooperative research activities. International cooperative research activities shall comply with the requirements of management for ethics in science and technology in the countries where the cooperating parties are located, and shall pass the review on ethics in Science and technology of the countries in which the cooperating parties are located. For international cooperative research activities with high risks from the perspective of ethics in science and technology, the local and relevant industry competent departments are expected to organize experts to review the results of the review in ethics in Science and technology.

3. Monitoring and early-warning of ethical risks in science and technology. Relevant departments should promote colleges and universities, scientific research institutes, medical and health institutes, social groups, enterprises, etc. to improve the monitoring and early warning mechanism for ethical risks in science and technology, track the development frontiers of emerging science and technology, and strengthen the study and judgment of rule conflicts, social risks, and ethical challenges that may be brought about by scientific and technological innovation, and put forward countermeasures.

4. Seriously investigate and handle violations of laws and regulations related to ethics in science and technology. Colleges and universities, research institutes, medical and health institutes, enterprises, etc. are the first responsible subjects for the internal investigation and handling of violations related to ethics in science and technology, and shall formulate and improve the relevant provisions for the investigation and handling of their own units, promptly take the initiative to investigate violations related to ethics in science and technology, and seriously pursue responsibility and accountability for serious violations in accordance with laws and regulations; where units and their responsible persons are suspected of violating ethics in science and technology ethics, they shall be investigated and handled by the competent department at the higher level. Each local and relevant industry competent department shall, in accordance with its duties, authority and affiliation, strengthen guidance and supervision of the investigation and handling of violations related to ethics in science and technology in that locality and system.

Scientific and technological activities carried out by any unit, organization or individual must not endanger the security and safety of society, the public, biology, and ecology, must not infringe on the safety of human life, physical and mental health, or human dignity, must not infringe on the right to know and to choose for participants in scientific and technological activities, and must not fund scientific and technological activities that violate the requirements of ethics in science and technology. The competent departments of relevant industries, funding institutes, or units to which the responsible persons belong should distinguish between different situations, order the responsible persons that violate ethics in science and technology to make corrections in accordance with laws and regulations, stop relevant scientific and technological activities, recover funding, revoke awards and honors obtained, cancel relevant professional qualifications, and prohibit undertaking or participating in scientific and technological activities supported by financial funds within a certain period of time. Those who violate ethics in science and technology and are public employees, will be punished in accordance with laws and regulations, and party disciplinary sanctions are given in accordance with laws and regulations for party members; and those suspected of committing crimes are punished in accordance with law.

VI. IN-DEPTH EDUCATION AND AWARENESS-RAISING ON ETHICS IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Attach importance to the education of ethics in science and technology. Take the education of ethics in science and technology as an important part of the education of undergraduate and graduate students in related professional disciplines, encourage colleges and universities to provide courses related to ethics in science and technology, and educate young students to establish a correct awareness of ethics in science and technology and abide by the requirements for ethics in science and technology. Improve the training mechanism for professionals of ethics in science and technology, and accelerate the cultivation of high-quality and professionals of ethics in science and technology.

2. Promote the institutionalization of scientific and technological ethics training. Incorporate trainings for ethics in science and technology into the induction training of scientific and technological personnel, and scientific and technological personnel should undertake scientific research tasks, participate in academic exchanges and attend seminars, and other activities related to ethics in science and technology. Scientific and technological personnel should be guided to consciously abide by the requirements of ethics in science and technology, and carry out responsible research and innovation. The competent departments of the industry, all localities and relevant units shall regularly carry out training for members of the Ethics (review) committee in ethics of science and technology, enhance their ability to perform their duties, and improve the quality and efficiency on the review of ethics in science and technology.

3. Publicizing ethics in science and technology. Carry out publicity on ethics of science and technology for the public, promote the public to enhance the awareness of ethics in science and technology, and rationally treat issues related to ethics in science and technology. Encourage scientific and technological personnel to communicate with the public on ethical issues in scientific and technological innovation. For scientific and technological activities that have differences in public perception and may bring challenges to ethics in science and technology, relevant units and scientific and technological personnel should strengthen the popularization of science and guide the public to treat them scientifically. The news media should consciously improve their literacy of ethics in science and technology, report scientifically, objectively and accurately on issues related to ethics of science and technology, and at the same time avoid generalizing these issues. Encourage all kinds of societies, associations, etc. to build platforms for publicity and exchange on ethics in science and technology, and disseminate knowledge related to ethics in science and technology. All regions and relevant departments should attach great importance to the ethics and governance of science and technology, refine and implement the deployment from the Party Central Committee and the State Councils on improving the system of ethics in science and technology, strengthen ethics and governance of science and technology, improve the organizational leadership mechanism, clarify the division, strengthen coordination, solidly promote implementation, and effectively prevent risks related to ethics of science and technology. The competent departments of relevant industries and localities shall regularly report to the National Committee for Ethics in Science and Technology on the performance of supervision duties for ethics in science and technology, and accept supervision.

Disclaimer: Until the release of this translation (March 22nd, 2022), official translation from the government has not been provided. This version was produced by Yi Zeng from the International Research Center for AI Ethics and Governance at Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, for general information purposes only. No liability is assumed for the accuracy of the translation. It is always preferable to refer to the original Chinese version at:

http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/2022-03/20/content_5680105.htm

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