Q&A with Bioethicist Dr. Mary Kasule

We spoke with Dr. Mary Kasule, Assistant Director of Research Ethics at the University of Botswana, on her bioethics career and upcoming trip to the World Congress of Bioethics in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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The 13th World Congress of Bioethics begins tomorrow. This biennial conference is the largest gathering of bioethics thought-leaders in the world, and will this year explore “Individuals, Public Interests and Public Goods: What is the Contribution of Bioethics?” by bringing international academics, practitioners and experts together in Edinburgh, Scotland.

In support of the bioethics community, Wiley is honored to sponsor a bursary for Dr. Mary Kasule, Assistant Director of Research Ethics at the University of Botswanadr mary kasule

Originally from Uganda, Dr. Kasule completed her PhD in Public Health in 2014 with a focus on research ethics and parental informed consent protocol at the University of the Western Cape. Since then, she has held many roles and achievements, including: Secretary to the Botswana National Research Ethics Committee at the Ministry of Health and Research Officer at the Council on Health Research for Development.

Recently, Dr. Kasule published an article with Douglas R. Waasenaar (Fogarty grand award recipient), Carel Ijsselmuiden, and Boitumelo Mokgatla titled, “Silent voices: Current and future roles of African research ethics committee administrators.” The paper, published by The Hastings Center journal IRB: Ethics & Human Research, discusses findings of the first empirical study conducted specifically on the roles, responsibilities, and potential of administrators for African research ethics committees.

We caught up with Dr. Kasule before her trip to discuss her extensive work in bioethics, and what she hopes to see at the World Congress of Bioethics.


FN: We are honored to sponsor your trip to Edinburgh, Dr. Kasule. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. First, what sparked your interest in bioethics and public health?

MK: The courses that I took during my Bachelor of Science in Botany and Zoology and Masters in Applied Food Microbiology, as well as my teaching of Anatomy and Physiology, introduced me to most of the components of public health. To be honest, after over 20 years of lecturing at various tertiary health training institutions I felt I needed a change to specialize into something that could embrace my education background and experience gained. I saw studying public health as a gateway to a diversity of carrier opportunities and growth.

My research methodology course with a component of bioethics during my Masters in Public Health training gave me an insight into the importance of bioethics and responsible conduct of research. I also got an opportunity to work as the Secretary for the Botswana Ministry of Health National Ethics Committee (EC). By listening to EC deliberations, I came to realize the importance of good knowledge of bioethics for EC members in moral reasoning, risk/benefit analysis, and decision making. This further motivated me to find opportunities for long-term training in bioethics. I was very lucky to be awarded a scholarship by National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study for a Post Graduate Diploma in International Bioethics. This training also introduced me to research ethics administration – a new, emerging field in research ethics.

Okavango Delta Sunrise, Botswana
Okavango Delta Sunrise, Botswana

FN: What current project of yours are you most excited about?

MK: I am currently serving as the University of Botswana’s coordinator for the Fogarty African Bioethics Consortium, which was started in 2013 by the Johns Hopkins-Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program through a grant by the NIH.  Under the leadership of Prof. Nancy Kass and Prof. Adnan Hyder, the project aims to create a sustainable and viable institutional bioethics consortium. The consortium seeks to advance institutional capacities to promote and pursue bioethics and research ethics activities, including training, bioethics research, bench marking and publishing and service. Through this collaboration, over ten University of Botswana Institutional Review Board members have been trained in bioethics at Johns Hopkins, greatly improving the board’s structure and function. I am hopeful that this collaborative initiative will be extended to other sub-Saharan countries to gradually harmonize their research ethics review processes.

FN: Your bio is quite impressive! From your extensive career in health, what do you think are the biggest public health priorities for Botswana today?

MK: I would say 1) gaining epidemiologic control of HIV with successful implementation of Treat All, 2) strengthening health systems (improved monitoring and evaluation), supply chain management, quality service delivery), 3) rational human resource allocations, mentorship, and capacity building, and 4) integration of comprehensive health service delivery (such as HIV, sexual and reproductive health, tuberculosis, and non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancers).

FN: The World Congress of Bioethics will have attendees from quite diverse backgrounds. What unique perspective do you hope to share with others, and vice versa?

MK:  I would like to share experiences and challenges with people involved in research ethics administration regarding building research ethics capacity in their countries, and discuss the present and future of bioethics.

edinburgh scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland

FN: Are there any panels you’re looking forward to seeing? Any people you’re hoping to meet?

 

MK: Dr. Sarah Chan from the Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh. She will be chairing a symposium on ‘Exploring International Policy Development in Regenerative Medicine’ and a panel session considering ‘Socio-Ethical and Legal (ELSI) Implications of Genome Editing Technologies.’

I am currently a member of the Ethics Working Group on the Human Health and Heredity initiative aimed at facilitating a contemporary research approach to the study of genomics and environmental determinants of common diseases with the goal of improving the health of African populations. The group aims to develop a robust and supportive ethical and governance framework for genomic research in Africa, and I hope the symposium and panel will inform this work.

I would also like to meet participants working on Informed Consent, like Dr. Danielle Bromwich (Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Metaethics at University of Massachusetts Boston) and Dr. Ana Krivokuca (Institute for Oncology and Radiology of Serbia).

FN: Congratulations on your recently published paper, “Silent Voices: Current and Future Roles of African Research Ethics Committee Administrators”! How will your findings carry over into the World Congress of Bioethics? How do you hope your research will impact bioethics and public health as a whole?

MK: The paper falls under one of this year’s themes: Public Health, Ethics and Law. Effective and efficient ethics reviews are a result of good research ethics administration by well-trained research ethics administrators. The paper emphasizes the need for sub-Saharan African Ethics Committees to have these administrators manage committee operations and implement review administration with explicit focus so that committees achieve their goal – conducting high-quality, timely, and responsible ethics review. Ultimately, this translates into evidence-based policies and decisions for health care services at both individual and population level.

I hope that implementation of this paper’s recommendations would capacitate ethics committees in sub-regions and ultimately in sub-Saharan Africa. This would lead to a tremendous improvement in ethics review process and to harmonization of ethics review processes and practices in the regions and Africa as a whole, thus improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of ethics committees. The result would be timely reviews that allow conducting research to improve timeliness of public health interventions, health services delivery, health care policies and decision making. And, this could cut down on waste of resources from delayed reviews and loss of funding which depends on timely review of proposals.

FN: Thank you. We wish you safe travels and look forward to speaking upon your return.


This bursary is sponsored by Wiley on behalf of its bioethics journals.

Read the latest in bioethics from your peers around the world, and submit your paper today. Click on the journals below to access groundbreaking research in an increasingly relevant, ever-evolving field, and check back here soon for a post on Dr. Kasule’s top bioethics article picks!

bioethics june 2016 cover
Bioethics, official journal of the International Journal of Bioethics
dewb april 2016 cover image
Developing World Bioethics, the only journal dedicated exclusively to developing countries’ bioethics issues
HAST may 2016 cover cropped
The Hastings Center Report explores ethical, legal, and social issues in medicine, healthcare, and more

 

 

Whistleblowing – are we even allowed to dare?

Repression photoPaul Brookes, an associate professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, dared to be a whistleblower.  According to an interview he gave in the Magazine Science, he was author of the now defunct blog science-fraud.org. Like oh so many, he tried to achieve that via the internet. After realising that a lot of the scientific literature that is published contains faults in the form of wrong data, wrong or missing sources, and more, he decided that it was high time to speak out against bad writing and publishing practice. In order to protect his university and himself, he wrote about the problems anonymously. But with the way the internet actually functions, it was not that hard to blow his cover. Somebody apparently tracked back his IP Adress, and since his blog was uncomfortable for more than a few fellow scientists, someone, yet again anonymous, send an email to his university and to other institutions, exposing him and threatening with a law suit. Brookes subsequently declared his authorship the next day and removed the blog from the internet. Fortunately, the university, although not being particularly happy about Brookes actions, led him hold on to his job and Brookes is still blogging about faulty papers. Now under his own name and strictly in his private time. Continue reading “Whistleblowing – are we even allowed to dare?”

Philosophical Quarterly launch 2012 Prize Essay Competition

The Philosophical Quarterly invites submissions for its 2012 international prize essay competition, the topic of which is ‘Philosophy and the Expressive Arts’.

The author of the winning entry will receive £1500. The closing date for submissions is 1st November 2012.

Download Submission Guidelines

From Plato on, philosophy has had an uneasy relationship with expressive arts such as narrative, poetry, drama, music, painting, and now film. If philosophy today can learn from science, can it learn from the arts as well– or even instead? If so, what can it learn?

Does expressive art access truths, particularly ethical truths, that cannot be expressed any other way? If it does, what can ethicists and other philosophers say about these truths? If it does not, what differentiates expressive from merely decorative art?

Some philosophers insist with Wittgenstein that “whatever can be said at all can be said clearly”. In that case, are artistic uses of language such as metaphor and imagery just “colour”, as Frege called it – just ways of dressing up thoughts that philosophers, by contrast, should consider in their plainest possible form?

 

 

The Atheist’s Guide to Reality

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Although it came out late last year, Alex Rosenberg’s book, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions hasn’t been getting the press it deserves. Indeed, the comparative attention lavished on Alain de Botton’s much less interesting Religion for Atheists seems downright unfair. Probably Rosenberg’s title is largely to blame. He has all but admitted choosing it as a marketing ploy. This was probably a mistake. The title does the book no justice, since one thing The Atheist’s Guide has relatively little to say about is atheism. This has led people like this Independent reviewer to focus on complaining that the book offers little to atheists (more sensitive to logical solecisms than de Botton, Rosenberg declines to offer them religion) while ignoring its real topic.

Continue reading “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality”

New Philosophy Compass Issue, Sept 2011


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The latest issue of Philosophy Compass is available on Wiley Online Library

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Aesthetics & Philosophy of Art

Aesthetics of Opera (pages 575–584)
Paul Thom

Continental

Schelling’s Contemporary Resurgence: The Dawn after the Night When All Cows Were Black (pages 585–598)
Jason Wirth

Legal & Political

Emotions and the Criminal Law (pages 599–610)
Mihaela Mihai

Logic & Language

Generalized Quantifiers and Number Sense (pages 611–621)
Robin Clark

Negation, Denial, and Rejection (pages 622–629)
David Ripley

Naturalistic Philosophy

Empirical Arguments for Group Minds: A Critical Appraisal (pages 630–639)
Robert D. Rupert

Philosophy of Science

Introduction to the Philosophy of Statistical Mechanics: Can Probability Explain the Arrow of Time in the Second Law of Thermodynamics? (pages 640–651)
Orly Shenker and Meir Hemmo

Dialectica presents a FREE virtual issue!

dialectica cover, June 2011Founded in 1947, dialectica is the official journal of the European Society for Analytic Philosophy (ESAP), publishing first-rate articles predominantly in theoretical and systematic philosophy. Although edited in Switzerland with a focus on analytical philosophy undertaken on the continent, dialectica publishes articles from all over the world and has a truly global relevance. It is ranked A on the European Research Index for the Humanities of the European Science Foundation. Click here to view recent submission statistics and here to read some highlights from the journal over the years.

Continuing the work of its founding members, dialectica seeks a better understanding of the mutual support between science and philosophy and promotes that both disciplines need and enjoy in their common search for understanding. In this exciting virtual issue, the editorial team has selected some recent articles to showcase content from dialectica that particularly reflects the journal’s relevance to a US audience. These articles are representative of the many domains in which dialectica publishes, from ontology to epistemology and philosophy of mind or the theory of rationality. dialectica has recently published special issues on vectors, concepts, emotions, colours, and the philosophy of Kit Fine. We are confident that you will find this virtual issue interesting and informative.

Two Defenses of Common-Sense Ontology
Uriah Kriegel

Paderewski Variations
R. Mark Sainsbury

The Model-Theoretic Argument against Quantifying over Everything
Iris Einheuser

Relation-Based Thought, Objectivity and Disagreement
Christopher Peacocke

A Tale of Two Vectors
Marc Lange

On Some Recent Criticisms of the ‘Linguistic’ Approach to Ontology
Matti Eklund

Against Universal Mereological Composition
Crawford Elder

Rationality, Reasoning and Group Agency
Philip Pettit

Towards a Neo-Aristotelian Mereology
Kathrin Koslicki

Response to Kathrin Koslicki
Kit Fine

If you enjoyed these articles, why not activate a free 30-day trial to dialectica?

dialectica, official journal of ESAP

Art for Love’s Sake

Recent neurobiological research has shown that viewing art stimulates the brain in a way that mirrors the experience of romantic love. The study, conducted by Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroaesthetics at University College London, scanned and mapped the brains of participants who had been asked to look at a variety of paintings from such artists as Botticelli, Turner, Monet and Cezanne. It was found that experiencing art releases into the orbito-frontal cortex of the brain a significant quantity of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a biochemical associated with love, happiness and sociability, as well as drug use and certain psychological disorders.

The result comes at an ideal time for the art world in Britain, which has felt itself to be targeted by the extensive cuts in public spending. The correlation between aesthetic experience and happiness gives extra leverage in justifying the arts according to standards of public interest, a justification which normally consists in pointing out the economic benefits of the revenue which art institutions can generate. Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Stephen Deuchar, director of the arts charity Art Fund, said:

I have always believed art matters profoundly so it is exciting to see some scientific evidence to support the view that life is enhanced by instantaneous contact with works of art

Professor Zeki’s work in neuroaesthetics also stands to be of high value to the philosophy of art. This latest link between art and love is just one of many discoveries made by Zeki which coincide almost seamlessly with what artists and theorist about art have said for centuries, perhaps even for thousands of years. Plato, in his dialogue The Symposium, recounts a speech in praise of Love (Eros) made by Socrates which describes a journey of ascent from sexual love, through aesthetic appreciation of the body, to a spiritual love of the soul, arriving finally at the contemplation of the Platonic Form of Beauty itself. Continue reading “Art for Love’s Sake”