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Hastings Center News

Omenn and Darling Gift to Bolster Trust in Scientific Innovation

Preeminent science researcher and science policy expert Gilbert S. Omenn, MD, PhD., and national nonprofit leader Martha A. Darling have made a major gift supporting “trusted and trustworthy scientific innovation” at The Hastings Center, the pioneering ethics research center.

“Dr. Omenn and Ms. Darling understand that trust in science is a two-way street,” said Mildred Z. Solomon, the Center’s president.  “On the one hand, science must be worthy of our trust, meaning that it is evidence-based and aims to benefit all of us. On the other hand, the public must be encouraged to trust and utilize trustworthy science. Distrust of science among the public undermines our collective wellbeing.  This fund will transform The Hastings Center’s ability to address these challenges.”

The Fund will underwrite research aimed at ensuring that judgments about cutting edge technologies are evidence-based, user-centered, and designed and deployed in ethically justifiable ways. This approach includes attention to privacy, bias and discrimination, fair access to benefits, and impact on human relationships. It will explore ways to encourage citizen participation in science policy, public deliberations, and other mechanisms for building public understanding and trust in science. Topics may include the development of digital tools for public health surveillance, the use of robots and apps in elder care, the use of artificial intelligence within health care and life sciences research, and decisions about whether and when to offer population-based whole genome sequencing or gene editing for inherited disorders.

“The Hastings Center is well-situated to advance trust in science,” said Omenn.  “The Center’s own earned trust, built up over decades of bringing together a diverse group of biological and social scientists, ethicists, historians, and physicians to address known and emerging issues enables Hastings to facilitate interaction and understanding.” Omenn is the founding director of the University of Michigan Center for Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics and longtime leader of the Human Proteome Project, a geneticist and expert on risk assessment. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He was a Howard Hughes Investigator, a White House Fellow, Dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health and professor of medicine and environmental health before serving as CEO of the University of Michigan Health System. He has led large-scale studies of prevention and proteogenomic analyses of cancers, health promotion in older adults, and public health genetics in ethical, legal, and policy context. He served as Associate Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget in the Carter Administration.  He is on the board of the Center for Public Integrity and has long been engaged in the biotech sector. Over nearly five decades he has been a fellow, collaborator, and board member of The Hastings Center. He is married to Martha Darling.

Darling has consulted on education policy for the National Academy of Sciences and has chaired the boards of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.  She is a member of the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and a member of the National Wildlife Federation’s President’s Leadership Council.  In 1977, she was appointed a White House Fellow, and later was senior legislative aide to U.S. Senator Bill Bradley. Following graduate school at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, Darling conducted cross-national policy analyses as a consultant to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. She was formerly a senior program manager at Boeing.

The world’s first bioethics research institute, The Hastings Center was established in 1969 to examine issues in medicine and the life sciences and their impact on individuals and society. The Hastings Center uses an interdisciplinary process to analyze complex issues from several different perspectives— legal, medical, biological, philosophical, economic, and personal—to seek common ground. Its two peer-reviewed journals, the Hastings Center Report and Ethics & Human Research, publish the leading thinking in the field.