News

IRGC has released its latest policy brief, Policy options to address collision risk from space debris. This publication offers a range of policy options and generic recommendations to improve the assessment, evaluation and management of collision risk from space debris. IRGC emphasises that action must be taken immediately, even though a more thorough risk assessment must still be completed. (November 2021)

On 20 October, IRGC executive director Marie-Valentine Florin joined other climate and policy experts at the University of Fribourg’s Café Scientifique event “Géoingénierie – La technologie peut-elle sauver le climat?” The panel spoke about the different types of negative emission technologies, their potential to help us reach net-zero and what kinds of risks they could pose. You can watch the full video below. (October 2021)

The new book, Emerging Threats of Synthetic Biology and Biosecurity, edited by Marie-Valentine Florin, Benjamin Trump, Edward Perkins and Igor Linkov, is now available for free download. This book comes from proceedings at an IRGC expert workshop and identifies potential biosecurity governing strategies for synthetic biology and biotechnologies, and discusses what is needed for a robust biosecurity framework. (September 2021)

This year, the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) focused its 2021 Innovations Dialogue on deepfakes and IRGC executive director Marie-Valentine Florin participated in the event. She spoke on the panel “Managing the Deepfake Phenomenon – Governance Issues and Responses” where she and other panellists explored the key issues concerning deepfakes and what governance measures are needed to respond to them. (August 2021)

On 11 August, IRGC executive director Marie-Valentine Florin joined the Swiss Science Concil’s first workshop on “Learning from Covid-19”. The participants, which included faculty from universities all across Switzerland, focused on how to improve the management and communication about the risk posed by COVID, how to help Swiss society cope with the precautionary measures, and what learnings can be applied for the future. The results of this workshop will be published at a later date. (August 2021)

The first issue of EPFL’s new magazine, Dimensions, focuses on deepfakes and other simulations, looking at how they affect education, trust, research and society as a whole. Our deputy director Aengus Collins was interviewed about “Deepfakes challenge to trust and truth” for the magazine, in which he spoke about what kinds of individual, organisational and society risks deepfakes pose and how to prioritise them. The magazine can be read online or as a PDF.

IRGC has been involved in research on the governance of deepfakes since 2019 and our work on the topic can be found here. (July 2021)

In our recent Spotlight on risk article, guest authors Nicholas Harrison, Janos Pasztor and Kai-Uwe Barani Schmidt of the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G), offer a framework to help decision-makers consider risk trade-offs of exploring solar radiation modification (SRM) technologies. (July 2021)

IRGC’s recent report, Collision risk from space debris: Current status, challenges and response strategies, was covered in articles in the Swiss media outlets Heidi.news and Le Temps. In addition, IRGC scientific assistant Romain Buchs, who was interviewed for both articles, also wrote an opinion piece for SpaceWatch.global on the limits of current approaches to managing collision risk from space debris. (July 2021)

In our latest Spotlight on risk article, Marie-Valentine Florin joins others who make the case that climate policies should be built around a more comprehensive portfolio of technologies and approaches to addressing climate change. This latest Spotlight article builds on our 2020 report International governance issues on climate engineering, which provides a comprehensive review of the potential benefits, risks, associated uncertainties and governance mechanisms of various techniques. (June 2021)

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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