BIG > Project


Over the past decade, there has been a better understanding of the appropriate level – local, national or global – at which collective action is desirable. There are arenas where impacts are local, others where impacts are national, others where they are definitely global. In global arenas, global collective action is required and systems of global governance are essential. A series of events – from the emergence of AIDS as a wold-wide problem, till the crisis over BSE; from the debate on GMOS, till the threaten of bioterrorism – have demonstrated that biomedicine and biotechnology are increasingly global. Globalisation presents formidable challenges with respects to the promotion of health, and future health prospects increasingly depend upon it. Globalisation, however, presents also a dark side: new poverty, new instabilities, new uncertainties, and new risks. Governments are having less amd less control aver flows of information, tecnology, diseases, mobility of people arms and financial transactions, whether licit or illicit, across their borders. Nonstate actors ranging from business firms to non-profit organisations, to mafia cartels, are playing increasingly larger roles in both national and international affairs. Rapid advances and diffusion of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and the materials sciences will add to the capabilities of nationalist and fundamentalist networks, or transnational crime, to engage in biological warfare or bioterrorism. A terrorist who is willing to drive a plane into the World Trade Center would be just as willing to inoculate himself with smallpox and show up in any EU or US big city.


Within the scope of the 5th Framework Program, the European Commission has funded a 42 months reseach project on the BIOETHICAL IMPLICATIONS of GLOBALISATION PROCESSES (BIG). The BIG project will be carried out by an international consortium and the EC scientific officer in charge of the project is Dr Line-Gertrud Matthiessen (DG Research – Directorate E – Bioethics).


BIG is a 42 months previsional project that aims to anticipate the major reasons for bioethical concern surrounding globalisation, to forecast future scenarios and to formulate new policy options in this field. The project’s purpose is both to raise short-term, tactical considerations and to provide a longer-term, strategic perspective. Its major contribution will be to identify drivers, to determine whish ones matter most, to highlight key uncertainties, to integrate analysis of these trends into a general context and to propose future policy options. The results of the project will help EU governments, institutions, SMEs, NGOs and other non-state organisations with rigorous,impartial analyses on future global bioethical issues.

The project will achieve its aim by convening some expert meetings amd developing some rounds of Delphy questionnaires. A high-level seminar involving a selected audience of EU policy-makers will conclude the study.

The BIG project will question the bioethical implications of globalisation, will look at how they are best met and will serve ad a forum to formulate new policy options inthe field. The study will have two major objectives:
Objective A is to identify major bioethical issues raised by globalisation processes.
Objective B is to forecast future scenarios and formulate policy options.

Objective A will be accomplished by fulfilling the following tasks:
Task 1- Description of the actual and potential impact on international health of:
1. Liberalisation of trade
2. Mobility of people
3. Tecnological globalisation
4. New global conflicts including bioterrorism.
Task 2 – Ethical, legal and social analysis of data coming from Task 1
Task 1 will be realised by convening some expert meetings.
Task 2 will build on Task 1 : papers (and recorded discussions) presented in each meeting will be edited and analysed. A draft report will be draw up on the basis of these analyses.

Objective B will be accomplished by fulfilling the following tasks:
Task 3 – Submission of the report drawn up as a result of objective A to a public comment through some round Delphy questionnaires.
Task 4 – Preparation of a report to present the conclusions of the Delphy questionnaire and submission of this report to EU policy makers:
Task 3 will be realised through the “Delphy Method”, a structured process used to collect and distil knowledge from a group of experts by means of a series of questionnaires interspersed with controlled opinion feedback.
Task 4 will be realised by writing a final report that will incorporate teh results of the Delphy review.

On the basis of this longer report, an executive report includind a list of recommendations will also be drawn up. Both reports will be submitted to a selected audience of EU policy makers during a final high level seminar that will conclude the project.