International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)

Research Training Group Bioethics

The German Research Foundation (DFG) funded the Research Training Group "Bioethics" at the IZEW from 2004 to 2013. The duration of funding was extended twice. With a term of altogether ten years the Research Training Group achieved the maximum admissible time span. The Research Training Group “Bioethics” hosted a total of 51 doctoral and 11 postdoctoral fellows as well as some further associated doctoral projects.


Prof. Dr. Eve-Marie Engels

Deputy spokesperson

Prof. Dr. Thomas Potthast (2007-2013)
Prof. Dr. Vera Hemleben (2004-2007)


Dr. Ralf Lutz (2009-2013)
Dr. Cordula Brand (2007-2009)
Dr. Axel Kühn (2005-2007)
Dr. Olaf Schumann (2004-2005)

Summary of the Research Training Group "Bioethics"

The demand for bioethical competence is increasing. Due to the rapid developments in biological and medical research and its applications, both in the present and the future, we are constantly confronted with new ethical and legal challenges. Bioethics, whether in its function as ethical reflection on current research and technology or in its anticipatory role as a sensor for possible future potentials and risks of the life sciences, is expressed in expert reports, position papers, recommendations and drafts of legislation at both the national and international levels. In this respect, bioethics is becoming increasingly institutionalised in both the academic and political context. Nevertheless, there is a considerable gap between the growing demand for bioethical competence and available educational resources. The main reason for this can be found in the structure of our educational system. Interdisciplinary competence, such as it is required for well-founded judgments in the field of bioethics, is difficult to acquire through any established course of studies. It rather requires interdepartmental cooperation in which representatives of different disciplines in the natural sciences and humanities as well as the medical field work together on common issues. For this reason, the post-graduate programme "Bioethics", with its research and study programmes, was established to contribute substantially to the professionalisation of interdisciplinary applied bioethics. It addressed new issues that, despite an urgent need for clarification, had attracted little attention before. At the same time, the programme was concerned with establishing bioethics as an independent, long-term field of research alongside its relevance to questions regarding the application of specific techniques and technologies. This required increased reflection on the theoretical foundations of bioethics itself. With regard to the expanding field of bioethics, the members of the first phase (2004 - 2006) worked on the following main research areas: 1. theoretical foundations of bioethics; 2. ethical and philosophical aspects of the neurosciences; 3. ethical and philosophical aspects of dealing with genetic information. Since the beginning of the second phase in 2007, the Research Training Group had been dedicated to the comprehensive research question on the "self-design of human beings by using biotechniques". A particular feature of the Research Training Group consisted of processing new kinds of issues that arise from linking particular areas of the life sciences to their technologies.