I actually sit happily in Tsukuba having time to enjoy the heat of the mid-winter sunny days without having to leave the country for more than a month from now. In this editorial I intend to make some reflections on the past few years of solid development of EJAIB, and bioethics dialogue within and beyond Asia. I also invite readers to see the reflections by associate editor Frank Leavitt in this volume, on the three years the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports has supported us and Jayapaul Azariah (and in 1998 Heng Leng Chee) to join with many others indirectly supported in workshops, in developing the exterior and interior of a Golden Triangle of Asian Bioethics: The East in Japan (and Philippines), the West in Israel (and Turkey), and the South in India (and New Zealand). One can see this reflected in the number of foreign participants attending the TRT2 (5), TRT3 (25) and TRT4 (140). Clearly, something is attractive in Asia as we also see the growing participation of persons outside of Asia, to TRT meetings and the successful ABC'97 and IAB4 conferences that TRT3 and TRT4 were associated with.
We have seen several hundred papers published from Eubios Ethics Institute publications in the past three years, and we can expect many papers to follow in 1999 from the TRT4 meeting, and other workshops held around Asia. The backload has meant that I have not been able to put recent books onto the Internet, which I intend to do in the coming months.
Another project that will soon be started is the gathering of all Eubios Publications and all the web pages onto a single CD-ROM, following the 50th issue of EJAIB which will be March, 1999. The price for the CD-ROM, and for videos from TRT3 and TRT4 has not been decided yet, and will be announced in the next issue. However, if you want to receive the figures included in the books you will still need hard copies, so please do not hesitate to order! As has been the policy, we ask people to contribute what they can if they are not in a position to pay the suggested retail price.
I believe the future of bioethics publications is through the Internet and CD-ROMs, and my intention of 1990 to create a source for low cost publications so that information barriers between rich and poor countries could be broken. While EJAIB has not been on the Internet for open and free access for four years, we still see only a handful of smaller newsletters on the Internet and none of the other main peer-reviewed journals has accepted the challenge to be on-line for free. I hope that we can see some conversions to the open style, as there are an increasing number of journals being published on bioethics but quite a few are beyond our means to purchase. While several scientific journals are on-line, there is now a move to make regular users pay for their subscription, for example Nature Biotechnology and Science. We need to applaud some, like Canadian Medical Association Journals, which have a tradition of being on-line for free. Actually this means their readership is wider, and more persons access EJAIB through Internet in a week then are sent in hard copy. Several people gave contributions for the on-line version in the subscription renewal, thank you. We will continue to work on a voluntary system of user pays.
While the exchange of news and papers by journals and on networks is useful, there is still something special about face-to-face meetings and training courses. Misunderstandings can occur without human interaction, as happens sometimes in literature arguments. That is why we are happy to have developed the so-called "Eubios family" of participants in TRT meetings and others known personally who have supported the Eubios Ethics Institute and EJAIB.
On page 31 is an announcement for those who wish to come back to TRT5, to be held 20-23 November, 1999. It is intended to have a smaller group, up to 60, to have more discussion style as in TRT1,2,3. Please tell us if you may come in writing soon, noting financial assistance will very limited if at all. The roundtable will also act as an advanced cross-cultural bioethics course, and already the credentials of those committed to coming represents most of the Japanese writers active in writing bioethics in English language publications. Some persons have already confirmed their participation. We also invite more centres to join together to coordinate seminars and gain funding for some other participants to reach Japan.
In December, 1998 I was the invited visiting ethicist at St. Francis International Bioethics Centre in Hawaii, through Prof. SY Tan and his colleague there. It was interesting to see how the pluralist community there, including persons of Chinese, Japanese and Filipino descent often challenged the presumptions of North American bioethics. It is also a meeting point for Asian, Polynesian and North American cultures, and we hope to have more cooperation in the future.
In India in January, 1999, we were guests of University of Madras as usual, with a meeting organized by the Dept. of Zoology, and additional meetings at the Dept. of Law, Politics and Public Administration. In addition we had a workshop on bioethics at Mysore University, and the Tamil Nadu D. Ambedkar Law University; and the international conference on Environment and Bioethics by Loyola Institute of Frontier Energy (LIFE), Loyola College, Chennai, India. This schedule of papers, including some collaborative research projects in India, keep up to the image of mental stimulation experienced in India. Personally the sights of the Himalayas and Ganges, added to the total memories of India. The renewal of contacts with old friends and creation of new ones, promises much hope for the steady development of a solid base of bioethics scholarship in India.
In this issue of EJAIB one of the symbols of the work in preparing the IAB4 and TRT4 is the Communique from the global summit of national bioethics commissions. This represents the formal level of international cooperation in global bioethics, and we hope will be useful for developing policy that reflects the diversity of views. Similar goals are hoped from the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, which reached the UN General Assembly level at the time of the 50th Anniversary of Human Rights in December, 1998. I also attended the Fifth Session of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in December, 1998. The IBC with a new membership, and a new Chair Prof. Ryuichi Ida from Kyoto University, Japan will continue to implement the Declaration and prepare further reports on key issues facing humankind. We can hope that bioethics at these levels succeeds to make life better for all organisms and people everywhere.
Papers in EJAIB this time cover environmental and medical ethics, with quite a range, so they can speak for themselves. There are also several announcements, including the release of one member of the editorial board from half a year of detention. The letter from Prof. Verma also refers to the on-line book Essays on Man, which I am afraid is only published in an on-line version (and will be on the Eubios CD-ROM). Another recent addition to the Internet site is the CERPH Newsletter and personhood project - please see the home page for the full list of resources.
The future of Asian Bioethics however, lies with the contributions of readers of these pages, and the many across the world's most populated countries, China, India, and the rest of Asia. We hope that many young authors can be stimulated to devote their energy into exploring ethics, and how to implement technology in a way better than our forefathers and older generation. Perseverance is needed, which is something I worry about when I see many young people giving up their studies and lacking the desire to sweat over the development of a heart to think and love. Maybe more than half of the people that were ever born are alive today, but still we hope that the lessons of the past will not be lost and that people share the spirit of learning. We should never be afraid to be challenged or develop our views, and I hope 1999 lets us all develop our thinking as much as 1998!
Let us know how you think, share an idea or two!
Thanks for renewal subscriptions!
- Darryl Macer