Connecting Organizations

The Hub-Spoke-Axle Model

The Kavli Center for Ethics, Science, and the Public is enriched by the comprehensive excellence of Berkeley’s top scientific and professional schools, centers, and institutes.

Diagram of the structure of the kavli center showing a hub, spoke, and axle with each labeled with the discipline associated with it

The “Hub” 

Humanities and Ethics

Ethics, humanities, and social sciences are central to the activities in the hub of the Kavli Center.  Philosophy Department faculty who are leading contributors to contemporary debates in ethics, political philosophy, and related areas contribute to research and training in the Kavli Center.  Social scientists who study the interaction between technology and society and participatory research methodology mentor and collaborate with Kavli Fellows.  

Berkeley’s humanities programs offer imaginative and literary lenses through which to envision the effects of transformative technologies on society. The Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Tanner Lectures on Human Values, and the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society are important Berkeley resources for cross-disciplinary research, teaching, and outreach.

The “Spokes”

The initial “spokes” of the Center focus on three innovative sciences where advances are raising fundamental ethical questions that science alone cannot address. UC Berkeley houses some of the world’s leading researchers in these “spokes”. The Kavli Center interfaces with well-established research efforts that facilitate transformative science and tackle core ethical issues. Over time, and as new breakthroughs emerge, new “spokes” may be added.

Genome Editing 

Innovative Genomics Institute

In the Genome Editing spoke, the Kavli Center collaborates with the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI). The IGI was founded by Nobel laureate and Kavli Center co-founder, Jennifer Doudna, as a joint effort between two leading scientific research institutions, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. The IGI’s mission is to accelerate genome discovery and translation in order to ethically and equitably improve human health and sustainable agriculture. Toward this end, the IGI has research programs in the life sciences and a public impact program area, which supports research in ethical, legal, and social implications of genome editing, and conducts engagement, education, and policy work. Additionally, the IGI has hosted a series of workshops and public fora on ethics, governance, and public engagement in genome editing including “CRISPR Consensus?,” a public debate on human germline editing. 

In addition to working with IGI researchers, the Kavli Center partners with the IGI to host the Berkeley Ethics and Regulation Group for Innovative Technologies (BERGIT), an interdisciplinary team led by Kavli Center Co-Director, Jodi Halpern, with expertise in ethics, law, and molecular biology. BERGIT serves as one of the Kavli Center’s models and mechanisms for engaging scientists with the societal and ethical questions their work raises.

AI and Data Science  

Center for Human-Compatible AI

For the AI and Data Science area, the Kavli Center interfaces with a range of strong research programs both within and external to Berkeley. The Center for Human-Compatible AI (CHAI), led by Kavli Center Co-Director, Stuart Russell, is a multi-site research center headquartered at Berkeley with branches at Michigan and Cornell. CHAI’s aim is to reorient AI research toward provably beneficial systems, over which humans can retain control even as they approach or exceed human-level decision-making capabilities. Because the meaning of beneficial depends on the properties of humans, this task inevitably includes elements from the social sciences in addition to AI. The Center builds upon CHAI’s expertise in bridging the gaps between engineers and social scientists and humanists.

Berkeley Institute for Data Science

The Center also works with the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS), founded by Nobel Laureate and Kavli Center co-founder, Saul Perlmutter. BIDS provides the Center with a proven model for integrating expertise across domains via a longstanding program of cross-training postdoctoral fellows from non-data science backgrounds in data science. BIDS also offers “Cross Domain Initiatives” (XDs), such as its Ethics XD, which create cross-disciplinary teams working together to identify common principles, algorithms, and tools in AI and Data Science.


Department of Neuroscience

UC Berkeley houses cutting-edge research in neuroscience which advances our understanding of the brain and our ability to interface directly with it. The new Department of Neuroscience brings together faculty and programs previously scattered across many departments and will have a broad scope ranging from molecules to mind, and including computational neuroscience and neurotechnology. Members of the Kavli Center’s core faculty and fellows are part of the new Neuroscience Department as well as the department’s close collaborator, The Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute (HWNI). These members link our work to the ethical issues neuroscientists are encountering.  

Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses 

The Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses (CNEP), a collaboration between UC Berkeley & UC San Francisco, focuses on the development of prosthetic devices for brain recording and for stimulation. These rapidly developing neural technologies have profound ethical implications: neurotechnologies such as deep brain stimulators can disrupt peoples’ sense of self and make it difficult for them to ascribe causality to their actions; and invasive and non-invasive neural recordings have the potential to expose substantial private information about peoples’ inner mental life. The Kavli Center is interfacing with CNEP to connect neuroscientists, ethicists, and society to address these profound challenges. 

The “Axle”

Bringing discovery science into early engagement with humanities scholars through the spokes and the hub must also benefit from and help turn the axle: engaging with lived experiences and societal realities, affecting change, and ultimately serving society. The Center draws upon Berkeley’s many existing assets in our professional schools and practitioner partners to ensure bidirectional influence between publics and academia.  Our efforts range from public engagement with science to influencing public policy and the global regulation of technologies.

Public Policy and Law

The Goldman School of Public Policy and Berkeley Law both provide a strong base for the Center to provide exposure to and education in the mechanisms for affecting public policy, law, and regulation. In particular, the Center interacts with faculty in the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology (BCLT), including BCLT Co-Director and Kavli Center Steering Committee Member, Rebecca Wexler. BCLT seeks the ethical advancement of technology by guiding the development of intellectual property law, information privacy law, and related areas as they interact with science and innovation.


The Haas School of Business offers expertise in reaching broad audiences of seasoned executives and professionals in business, civil society, and government, as well as instilling reflective thinking about the societal effects of complex scientific and technological developments. Although several centers at Haas engage in this work, the Center for Responsible Business focuses on mobilizing business and technology to create a more just society. Past collaborations with the center have focused on AI and the Future of Work.

Public Health

The School of Public Health has long been a pioneer in public outreach and community-based participatory research, leading the way for the development of new forms of this approach and often serving as one of the most community-facing departments at Berkeley. The Center looks to the School of Public Health as a leader and educator in how to best bring together the principles of community-based participatory research with scientific discovery.  Kavli Center Co-Director Jodi Halpern is a professor in the School of Public Health.


Undergirding all of the Center’s work is an ongoing collaboration with the Graduate School of Journalism (GSJ), representing a commitment to the importance of science communication and public engagement. The GSJ, one of the top graduate journalism programs in the United States, has a strong track record of fostering honest, probing journalism that is crucial to a just society. The school’s programs span news reporting, documentary film, audio reporting, video reporting, and digital media, ensuring that both student and faculty reporting reaches wide and diverse public audiences. The school has several core faculty teaching and advising in relevant areas, including author Michael Pollan, New York Times science writer Jennifer Kahn, environmental reporter Mark Shapiro, science historian Elena Conis, and media ethicist Ed Wasserman. As part of the Kavli Center’s Ethics, Science, and the Public Fellows Program, Kavli Center co-founder, Elena Conis, leads a collaboration with the Kavli Center’s fellows and science journalism graduate students to bring discussion about ethical questions in science to a public audience.


Berkeley is also fortunate to have the opportunity to engage with future scientists, ethicists, and public thinkers at the earliest possible stages of their development through the Lawrence Hall of Science (The Lawrence), a national leader in K-12 outreach and curriculum development. The Lawrence has ongoing work with the Center’s closest collaborator, the Innovative Genomics Institute to encourage students to consider how science and innovation affect their communities. The Lawrence also collaborates with Kavli Center co-founder, Saul Perlmutter, to bring methods of deliberative engagement on scientific issues to the classroom.

While UC Berkeley is a world-leading institution in cutting-edge science, many of our surrounding community members have never interacted with a UC Berkeley researcher about their science. Public libraries have remained centers of civic engagement and places to access education and training in all sorts of topics including practical workforce skills. In our collaborations with the City of Berkeley Public Library, we aim to provide opportunities for Berkeley scientists, humanities scholars, and experts in professional fields to interact with our local public, responding to the interests and needs of the Library's patrons, and to enable mutual learning and discussion around the ethics of emerging technologies and how we want them to serve our society.