5 minutes with: Dr Frederic Gilbert
“I feel myself very lucky to be part of the multidisciplinary Australian Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES). It is very inspiring to interact with well accomplished Professors such as Gordon Wallace, Robert Kaspa and Susan Dodds” says Dr Frederic Gilbert. “ACES provides an exceptional opportunity to practice and deepen my Applied Ethics work”.
Since the very beginning of his university studies in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr Gilbert was struck by the uniqueness of Applied Ethics and began taking a great interest in its concrete importance. After graduating in 2004, he obtained a doctoral research assistant position at the Institute of Biomedical Ethics at the Faculty of Medicine in Geneva. The topic of his thesis was to revisit the ethical challenges related to traditional concepts of Responsibility, Free Will and Determinism, in the light of modern neurobiological and genetics discoveries. He was co-directed by Dr. Bernard Baertschi and Prof. Alex Mauron. Parts of his research was funded by Frontiers in Genetics, National Center Of Competence in Research (NCCR).
After obtaining his PhD in 2008, Dr Gilbert went on to postdoctoral research in Canada.
“My postdoctoral research, in which I focused on neuroethical questions, has been important to me, not only academically, but also because it has given me the opportunity to understand the importance of enhancing ethical debates, principally in terms of their interdisciplinary impacts. I completed my postdoctoral fellowship under Prof Francoise Baylis at the Novel Tech Ethics, Department of Bioethics, Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University. It was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research with States of Mind: Emerging Issues in Neuroethics, and Therapeutic Hopes and Ethical Concerns: Clinical Research in the Neurosciences”.
Since 2010, Dr Gilbert holds a fixed-term full-time appointment as Associate Program Leader and Research Fellow within the Ethics & Bionics/Nanomedicine program, under the leadership of Prof Susan Dodds. His research is supported by ACES, and he is located in the School of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Tasmania.
“Following my postdoctoral work, I chose to turn to the ethical questions related to medical bionics and nanomedicine, in particular their direct impact on patients, because of an increasing fascination with issues generated by unprecedented technical developments. I especially enjoy working on ethical issues that arise within the overlapping fields of medical neuro-bionics mostly because of the postoperative impacts on conceptions of Self and Identity, as well as Enhancement for patients. I like to think that there are still possibilities that new medical bionics may affect our understanding of these traditional concepts”.
He believes contemporary Applied Ethics discussions not only exert a large influence on how we should view emerging novel medical technologies, but also raise the need to frame medical developments into ethical debates, thus creating a permanent multidisciplinary discussion.
“In such debates, I suppose everybody agrees with the necessity to foresee to what extent applied ethics publications have to be engaged in interdisciplinary research” says Dr Gilbert.
“One of the functions of the ACES Ethics program is to prepare for ethical challenges that arise from the use of novel medical bionics devices. Another is to anticipate the impacts of future uses of nanomaterials in medical bionics, such as in the new generation of sensing and drug delivery system devices. These existing devices, and those in research, have the potential to expand the range of possible treatable conditions; I think this is also why they deserve ethical attention”.
One of Dr Gilbert immediate goals is to increase the number of publications between the Ethics Program and other ACES Programs.
“I think applied ethics research must be intimately tied to ongoing scientific research in order to be credible; otherwise there a risk that resources and time are spent on speculative ethics or thought experiments” says Dr Gilbert. “But most importantly, I believe that any medical bionics technology will only be successful if researchers who promote it can demonstrate that it is safe and ethical. A quick look at history teaches us that many promising medical technologies have failed the test of time because those who promoted them ignored early ethical warnings, especially in terms of safety”.