Our Vision

Why a Center for Ethics, Science, and the Public?

In an era of social fragmentation and contested facts, science represents humanity’s best cooperative truth-seeking endeavor. At the same time, the ethical assessment of developments in science and technology must be responsive to diverse values and ways of life. The mission of the Kavli Center for Ethics, Science, and the Public at Berkeley is to provide an inclusive, democratic, and multidisciplinary framework for understanding the ethical implications of science and technology, training the next generation of leaders, guiding the development of policy concerning anticipated and actual scientific advances, and helping to ensure that they are answerable to fundamental human interests.

Why is a Kavli Center for Ethics, Science, and the Public important today? Founding faculty member and Nobel Laureate Jennifer Doudna, who has pioneered research on CRISPR gene editing, explains:

"After our 2012 paper revolutionized scientific research and CRISPR became global headline news, I had to quickly learn how to toggle between two responsibilities: academic teaching and research to further develop the technology, and a new role engaging with journalists, politicians, and lawmakers to publicly discuss how we as a society can safely apply breakthrough gene editing technology, including the risks of making heritable changes in the human germline. It would have been immensely helpful to have had a central resource to help me as a scientist — and as a concerned citizen — navigate the complex ethical implications of our work."– Jennifer Doudna, October 2020

Key Research Questions

Three major research questions inform the work of the Center:

  1. What are the most important human interests that might be affected by developments in science, technology, and policy, and what ethical responsibilities flow from these interests for individuals, scientists, and members of a democratic polity?

  1. How can we better anticipate scientific and technological advances and their potential impact on human interests?

  1. How can we better integrate moral goals and constraints into the conduct and application of science and technology and into public policy in these areas to ensure that the impact on human interests is positive?

The Hub-Spoke-Axle Model 

The Kavli Center vision comprises three elements that together form a "wheel": a “hub”, representing the core activities of the Center, where all who are affiliated with it come together to address fundamental ethical questions across disciplinary boundaries; “spokes” linking these activities to various scientific disciplines; and an “axle” connecting the Center with the larger society in a two-way process of outreach and engagement. The Center is an intellectual community, with cohorts of faculty and students exposed to and participating in all three elements. 

The Kavli Center sits within a rich tapestry of expertise that contributes to and informs the Center’s hub, spoke, and axle. Learn more here.

 A diagram of a wheel hub with spokes and an axle. Labeled with the disciplines the center's structure envisions in each part of the wheel