RECIPES: REconciling sCience, Innovation and Precaution through the Engagement of Stakeholders

By Dr. Kristel de Smedt

 

The development of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), nanotechnology and neonicotinoid insecticides presents opportunities for humans and the environment, but it can also carry risks to human, animal or plant health.

Decisions on their promotion or regulation are often to be taken in situations of uncertainty or lack of knowledge about these risks. But how do we take sound decisions in situations of scientific uncertainty? How do we decide on new or emerging technologies?

In such situations, the precautionary principle guides decision-makers faced with risks, scientific uncertainty and public concerns. As a general principle of EU law, it allows decision-makers to act despite scientific uncertainty.

In recent years, the principle has been criticised for hindering technologic innovation. Therefore, some stakeholders have developed an ‘innovation principle’, stressing the importance of taking into account also potential impacts on innovation.

Under the Horizon 2020’s subprogramme ‘Science with and for Society’ (SWAFS), the European Commission launched a call to take stock of the precautionary principle in R&I and to reconnect science with society.

The RECIPES project (REconciling sCience, Innovation and Precaution through the Engagement of Stakeholders) of the Consortium led by Maastricht University takes up this challenge and aims to develop new tools and guidelines to ensure the precautionary principle is applied while still encouraging innovation.

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Courts and Internet Governance (Conference, 5 June 2019, Brussels)

Organizers:
Mariolina Eliantonio (Maastricht University, Department of Public Law)
Catalina Goanta (Maastricht University, Law&Tech Lab)
Isabelle Wildhaber (University of St. Gallen, Institute for Work and Employment FAA-HSG)

When issues first arise in connection with how disruptive innovations need to be qualified according to current legal regimes, courts are the ones expected to interpret new developments in the light of established laws. Yet courts – just as lawmakers – are often criticized for their perceived inability to understand technology and keep up with its pace. As innovation develops and transforms Internet architecture, users and governance, marking ashift from the web 1.0 of the early 90’s to the platform-dominated web 2.0, it gives rise to more complex legal questions. On the one hand, with the advent of peer-to-peer economy around platforms such as Youtube, Instagram, AirbnB or TaskRabbit, legal certainty is under siege, as shown by various referrals by national courts in the European Union to the Court of Justice: When is user consent gathered by online sufficiently ‘specific’ and ‘informed’ (Case C- 61/19)? Is a natural person who posts eight ads on a website a trader who is bound by consumer protection (Case C‐105/17)? On the other hand, developments in distributed technologies such as blockchain have in more recent times added decentralization to the already-existing legal uncertainty. While the blockchain space has seen skyrocketing investments, losses arising in relation to fraudulent Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), hardware manufacturing defects or security holes in smart contracts are reported by news outlets, but rarely make it on the desks of judges.

This conference builds on an initial exploration of the topic of decentralization held at the Faculty of Law at Oxford University in March 2019. The event takes the overarching theme of Internet governance, as the vast majority of the data-related issues as illustrated above has been shaped by the increased interconnectivity, use and architecture behind the Internet. The first panel tackle Internet governance from the perspective of the legal certainty necessary for stable markets and societies. The second and third panel zoom into court activity with respect to issues related big data collected, stored or linked online, as well as the circumstances underlying the lack of more litigation relating to blockchain-related wrongs.

Keynote speech: Primavera de Filippi (Harvard University & CNRS)

Full programme and registration here.

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MEPLI and IDS team wins Commission tender

A multidisciplinary team of researchers from the UM Faculty of Law and the Institute of Data Science (Caroline Cauffman, Gijs van Dijck, Michel Dumontier, Catalina Goanta, Monika Leszczyńska, Kody Moodley and Pedro Hdez Serrano) recently won the tender JUST/2018/CONS/PR/CO01/0123 – Exploratory Study: Exploring IT/AI tools for monitoring online markets for consumer policy purposes. The aim of the project is to identify and make an inventory of IT and AI tools that are or can be made useful for online market surveillance for consumer policy development purposes and for the enforcement of consumer protection legislation. In addition, it aims to develop options and recommendations for action to integrate the use of such tools in online market monitoring for policy development at EU level for EU and national consumer policy enforcement. Do reach out to us researchers if you are building/using such tools!

 

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Congres ‘De toekomst van de rechtswetenschap’ (24 mei 2019 te Utrecht)

Teneinde gezamenlijke reflectie in gang te zetten, organiseren wij op 24 mei een congres waarbij onderzoekers uit alle geledingen van de rechtswetenschap met elkaar van gedachten kunnen wisselen.

De Werkgroep Rechtswetenschap is een platform van rechtswetenschappers die in verschillende wetenschappelijke functies werkzaam zijn aan Nederlandse universiteiten. Aanleiding voor het vormen van de Werkgroep is de opvatting dat de toegenomen nadruk op het verwerven van externe onderzoeksfinanciering, onder andere door teruglopende rijksfinanciering, ertoe noopt de taak en inhoud van de rechtswetenschap te (her)formuleren.

Twee concrete doelen
Wij richten ons daarbij in eerste instantie op twee concrete doelen: ten eerste het reflecteren op de vragen wat de rechtswetenschap ‘eigen’ maakt en aan welke criteria goed onderzoek in die context zou moeten voldoen; en ten tweede de praktische vraag hoe wij als juristen zelf de regie kunnen houden over financiering van onderzoek. Meer informatie is te vinden op werkgroeprechtswetenschap.nl. 

 

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Planned obsolescence and consumer protection

By Dr. Marta Santos Silva

 

Nowadays, large corporations are taking advantage of the rapid technological and scientific development in product manufacturing to increase their sales and profits.

One of the business models being explored is the so-called “planned obsolescence”. Planned obsolescence can be defined as a production strategy through which companies plan and control a product’s lifespan, configuring products in such a way that they will stop working as well as they did before, or even entirely, right after the warranty period expires.

While “planned obsolescence” may imply a certain intent on the part of the manufacturer, more neutral and broader designations, such as “premature”, “negligent” or even “avoidable obsolescence” are sometimes used. These encompass the cases described above, but also all cases where the dysfunctionality of the product after a certain period was unintended by the producer and is a result of more general patterns of unsustainable production and consumption.

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Meeting on Draft Model Rules on Online Intermediary Platforms

On Thursday 14 and Friday 15 March the Maastricht University Campus Brussels hosted the meeting of the reporters and members of the project “Draft Model Rules on Online Intermediary Platforms” of the European Law Institute. The project aims to develop model rules on online intermediary platforms that set out a balance between conflicting policy options and demonstrate what potential regulation at EU or national level could look like. The meeting was organized by Caroline Cauffman. About 16 academics from several European Member States and European Commission representatives engaged in very fruitful plenary working sessions. ​Reputational systems and redress were the main topics of the discussion on the first day, while the second day was devoted to the discussion of the coherence of the final draft.

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