The Rock Ethics Institute supports a number of initiatives designed to foster innovative ethics research that is both interdisciplinary and relevant to policymakers. During 2005/2006, the Institute sponsored a lecture series on Health as a Human Right and a conference on Islam and Bioethics. In 2007, it co-sponsored “Implanting Change: The Ethics of Neural Prosthetics” — an international conference exploring the ethical implications of recent developments in neurosurgery (such as implanting deep brain stimulators to treat Parkinson's disease). This event brought together leading surgeons, neuroscientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, lawyers and bioethicists for a ground-breaking discussion of some of the most topical issues in the field. Participants discussed the difficulties of obtaining informed consent for complex surgery when patients' cognitive abilities are impaired. They also addressed concerns about the national security and criminal justice applications of these technologies. The organizers of the event intend to publish a working paper that sets new directions for ethical research and analysis to keep pace with—and anticipate—dramatic scientific developments.
During the 2007/2008 academic year, the Institute is sponsoring a multidisciplinary lecture series that engages some of the most pressing questions in anthropology and ethics: “Who Owns Our Species?” This series brings to Penn State prominent experts in anthropology, bioethics, law and the history of science to address pressing questions about, for example, the impact of tourism on cultural heritage, and the meaning and implications of modern human genetic variation. This was followed in the late Spring of 2008 by a workshop on industry-sponsored health-related food research. Academics, regulators, and representatives of public interest groups and industry will discuss the ethical implications of new trends in food research and marketing, and the impact of these trends on public health.