News

On 18 November, IRGC and the TRIGGER Project will co-host the “Governance Of and By Digital Technology” conference, a public event that will bring together leading policymakers, researchers and practitioners to discuss important aspects of technological change and society’s reliance on digital technologies. This conference will explore 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 for free registration and to see the list of speakers. (October 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 Laru’s profile.