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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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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Should robots be given legal personhood?

By Dr. Caroline Cauffman

 

On 7 February 2019, the SSH Synergy conference 2019 took place in Bussum. The aim of the SSH Synergy conferences is to bring together academics from all disciplines of Social Sciences and Humanities, policy makers and professionals from civil society organisations involved in SSH research in order to discuss themes of current interest. In 2019, the focus was on the theme of Digitalisation. The conference included a number of key note speeches, parallel sessions, a science battle alongside the possibility to network while visiting an info market with organisations from science, society and industry.

NWO offered SSH researchers the possibility to propose topics for the parallel sessions. We were fortunate enough to have our proposal selected and to be given the opportunity to organise two debate sessions in the afternoon on the question of whether robots (which we use as shorthand for artificially intelligent entities) should be given legal personhood.

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Brexit and the Economics of Federalism

By Prof. Dr. Niels Philipsen

 

With Brexit, Yellow Jackets and EU-scepticism dominating the news and everyday discussions, I would like to direct MEPLI blog readers’ attention to some of the lessons that law and economics can offer to the (polarizing) debate on the future of the EU. My impression is that many academics, perhaps also some colleagues, too quickly label certain voters (those who supported Brexit and those who vote for EU-sceptic political parties) as ‘stupid’ and lacking the intelligence to understand and vote on topics like immigration, monetary policy, and environmental law. In my view this is not the right way to contribute to the debate. We need a much more balanced view. Perhaps, law and economics can help.

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