News

IRGC has published a comprehensive report on the risk governance challenges to managing collision risk from space debris and enabling the safe and sustainable use of space. This report explores the current risk management strategy, and also offers a range of possible new response strategies. The publication serves as the foundation for IRGC’s project work on space debris, including a forthcoming policy brief. (June 2021)

Read EPFL’s news article about our latest project, which studies the governance of risks related to space debris and assesses policy options to ensure the safe and sustainable use of space in a new article from EFL. We are working on this space debris project in collaboration with the EPFL eSpace Center and Space Innovation. (May 2021)

Our new Spotlight on risk article looks at the increasing prevalence and quality of deepfakes, and highlights their associated individual, organisational and societal risks. It is based on our 2019 policy brief, Forged authenticity: Governing deepfake risks, and was co-authored by deputy director Aengus Collins with EPFL professor Touradj Ebrahimi, who works on technological responses to deepfakes. (May 2021)

In our latest Spotlight on risk article, IRGC’s scientific assistant Romain Buchs looks in-depth at the risk landscape of space activity. As humans rely more and more on space-based infrastructure, it is imperative that policymakers and decision-makers understand and pay attention to the associated risks. This article explains the these in great detail and includes an original risk map. (April 2021)

EPFL featured our new Spotlight on risk publication, looking at an idea from Professor Bryan Ford from the School of Computer and Communication Sciences on reconciling anonymity and accountability online, This news article explains Ford’s idea of using in-person parties to prove personhood without requiring proof of identity. It discusses the strengths and drawbacks and looks at the policy questions posed by IRGC in the Spotlight on risk article. (March 2021)

Building off of IRGC’s work on deepfakes, deputy director Aengus Collins spoke to the EPFL/UNIL dhCenter about Deepfakes: The Art and Threats of Face Swapping as part of their series Can a Fake Truth Change the World? The discussion focused on the risks that increasingly sophisticated deepfakes pose to individuals, corporations and society more broadly. Watch the full episode below:
(March 2021)

For the first article in our Spotlight on risk series for 2021, IRGC deputy director Aengus Collins and EPFL computer science professor Bryan Ford co-authored a piece looking at at the tension between online anonymity and accountability, and the societal risks it leads to. The article outlines one low-tech proposal for resolving this tension, in-person events called “pseudonym parties”, where anonymous digital tokens are issued to provide “proof of personhood”. (March 2021)

EPFL featured IRGC’s new policy brief on transition risks in a news article “The time to take low-carbon transition risks seriously is now“.  Looking at the important climate milestones taking place in 2021, from the U.S. reentering the Paris Climate Agreement to the COP26 in November, this news article makes the argument that now is the time to do serious work on mitigating the low-carbon transition risks laid out in our policy brief. (February 2021)

We are pleased to announce the publication of our policy brief “Risk governance and the low-carbon transition”. This report outlines the adverse consequences that the low-carbon transition might entail, and outlines a range of governance responses that are needed. It came out of discussions and presentations that took place at IRGC’s expert workshop on low-carbon transition risks in September 2020. (February 2021)

EPFL’s School of Computer and Communication Sciences published an article about our recent Governance Of and By Digital Technology conference, focussing specifically on the role that artificial intelligence (AI) should or shouldn’t play in policymaking. The article looks in-depth at arguments on governance of AI and other technologies made at the conference by panellists such as Stuart J. Russell and John Zysman of UC Berkeley and Bryan Ford of EPFL. (December 2020)

On 18 November, IRGC and the TRIGGER Project hosted the “Governance Of and By Digital Technology” conference, a public event that brought together leading policymakers, researchers and practitioners to discuss important aspects of technological change and society’s reliance on digital technologies. This conference explored issues such as the question of governance of digital ecosystems, lessons learned from the rapid roll-out of digital contact tracing apps, the technical robustness and safety of AI-based systems, and the use of machine learning in governance. Please visit the conference website to watch videos from the conference sessions. (November 2020)

In line with the recommendations of IRGC’s report “International Governance Issues on Climate Engineering”, Switzerland’s Federal Council recently released a statement regarding climate engineering and the importance of negative CO2 emissions. In the release, the Council discussed the necessity of using NETs, a set of climate engineering technologies also known as Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), to achieve this goal. “The Federal Council approved a report on the importance of negative CO2 emissions for Switzerland’s future climate policy. Permanently removing CO2 from the atmosphere (i.e. achieving ‘negative emissions’) requires special technologies, which are not yet fully available. The report concludes that negative emissions are essential to meeting long-term climate targets. It recommends that the Confederation take action now to create the conditions needed for the large-scale development of these technologies, which remove CO2 and store it permanently.” The IRGC’s report can be found among the documents cited by the Federal Council for further information. (September 2020)

Continuing the “Spotlight on risk” series, IRGC has published a new article outlining the key consequential risks that are likely to arise as a result of the transition to a low-carbon economy and society. The article comes ahead of an IRGC expert workshop and policy brief on risk governance in this area. (August 2020)

We are saddened to share that Konrad Steffen, a climate scientist whose research sounded the alarm on rapidly melting ice sheets, died on 8 August 2020 in an accident at his research station in Greenland. Steffen was an invaluable member of the IRGC advisory board and EPFL community and he will be greatly missed.
We invite you to read tributes to Steffen from EPFL and the New York Times. (August 2020)

Marie-Valentine Florin and co-authors have published the paper “Building biosecurity for synthetic biology” about avoiding inadvertent or malicious mis-use of the technology. Material for the paper was discussed at a NATO Science for Peace and Security workshop, hosted by EPFL in July 2019. The paper suggests three strategies to improve biosecurity: security must be treated as an investment, not a cost; bridges are needed between biosecurity experts, social scientists, and practitioners; and a collective global effort among stakeholders is necessary to ensure acceptable levels of risk. (July 2020)

Marie-Valentine Florin and Aengus Collins of the IRGC, writing with Ortwin Renn, have published a paper in the Journal of Risk Research that considers the early phase of the Covid-19 crisis through a risk governance lesson and suggests a number of lessons that should be learned. (May 2020)

We are happy to announce the release of a new study “International Governance Issues on Climate Engineering” prepared by a group of scientists and edited by the International Risk Governance Center (IRGC) for the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). (18 June)

The report will be launched in a webinar organised by the GENeva Environment Network on 18 June, from 9:00 to 10:00. For registration and details about the event, please visit this page.

IRGC has published the second paper in the new “Spotlight on risk” series, entitled Covid-19 contact tracing: efficacy and privacy. It assesses the potential trade-off between privacy and efficacy when digital contact tracing apps are used. (May 19)

IRGC has published its 2019 Annual Report. The report looks back at our key activities last year, including work done in the fields of: machine learning, synthetic biology, precision medicine and nanotechnology. The report also highlights IRGC’s role within EPFL, and the way our work is used by researchers and policymakers. (15 May)

IRGC has published a new paper entitled COVID-19: a risk governance perspective. It highlights the key drivers of the current crisis, reviews the steps that governments have taken, and suggests ten lessons to be learned. The article is the first in a new monthly series. (April 13)

In an article entitled “How Swiss scientists are trying to spot deepfakes“, the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation cites IRGC’s Forged Authenticity report on the governance of deepfake risks. “Precisely because it is moving so fast, we need to map where this could go – what sectors, groups and countries might be affected,” the article quotes IRGC Deputy Director, Aengus Collins, as saying. (11 March)

Click here to read the full article.

At the Digital ID2020 conference organised by the University of Basel about ‘Digitalization and Infectious Diseases: improving patient outcome in the age of big data” on 20-21 January 2020, IRGC’s Executive Director, Marie-Valentine Florin, made a presentation on the topic of the “Social impact and risk governance of machine learning in the context of infectious diseases”, emphasising the tight connection between opportunities and challenges. (21 January)

Professor James Larus, Dean of the EPFL School of Computer and Communication Sciences, has been appointed as the new IRGC Academic Director. (28 October 2019)

James Larus’s profile.


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