About the Center

The Center for Integration of Research on Genetics and Ethics (CIRGE) was established at Stanford University in September 2004. It is one of six interdisciplinary Centers of Excellence in Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) Research (CEER) created by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to proactively identify and deliberate ethical, legal, and social issues in current and emerging genetic research. CIRGE is based at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics (SCBE), but includes Stanford University researchers from a broad range of disciplines including genetics, psychiatry, law, history, philosophy, medicine, anthropology, and sociology.

The focus of CIRGE is to study the interaction of genomic research with society, with an emphasis on the genomics of behavior. Research on human genetic variation has begun to identify important genetic differences between individuals and groups that appear to be associated with human diseases or behaviors. This research raises questions about the distinctions between disease, disability and difference and about the ethical and policy consequences of these distinctions. Such research also challenges notions of individual, group and even species identity as well as explores what determines individual personality, control over actions, moral agency, and the boundaries of enhancement.

The overall goals of CIRGE are 1) to enhance the incorporation of ethical and societal considerations into the practice of genomic research on behavior through identifying the issues raised by such research; 2) to conduct scholarly studies that inform the ethical practice of research; and 3) to develop mechanisms that enhance the incorporation of ELSI considerations into research.

CIRGE aims to:

·      Create interactive models for proactive identification and deliberation of ethical, legal and social issues arising from the conduct of genomic research, and create new mechanisms for integrating social and ethical considerations into genomics.

·      Conduct interdisciplinary ELSI research to explore the impact of genetic research on behavior on values and norms and to analyze the influence of values and norms on the conceptualization and design of genetic research.

·      Train interdisciplinary scholars to conduct ELSI research and become part of the ELSI community.

·      Develop guidance and educational materials for genetic researchers, ELSI researchers and trainees about the ethics, design and conduct of genetic research, with emphasis on behavioral genomics.

Through the successful achievement of these aims, CIRGE hopes to serve as a national model for incorporating ethical, legal and societal consideration into the design and conduct of cutting-edge genetic research as it unfolds.