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[CAIRO] Bioethics and the ethics of science and technology are set to receive more prominence in the Arab world following the launch of a regional centre in Egypt to highlight activities in these fields.

The Regional Documentation and Information Centre for Bioethics and Ethics of Science and Technology (RDIC-BEST), the third of its kind in the world, was inaugurated last week (29 March) at the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ARST) in Cairo, where the centre will be based.

It has since held its first activity, a workshop on ethics in science and technology in the Arab region, at Cairo's National Research Center.

Tarek Hussein, president of ARST, told SciDev.Net that RDIC-BEST — set up with support from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) — would help raise awareness about bioethics and science ethics through education and information dissemination.

He added the centre would provide assistance with the developing of ethics databases and establishing ethics committees in the region. It would also promote setting ethics standards in the region.

"The centre is managed by regional and local committees of experts from UNESCO and Arab countries," Hussein said. "They will be in charge of organising seminars and workshops, and developing university curricula to include [teaching on] ethics."

"It includes a library of documents collected from UNESCO regional centres across the world. A computer lab with a digital library and databases has been set up and linked with regional nodes to exchange data and information for the benefit of all parties," Hussein added.

UNESCO has previously established two RDIC-BEST centres — one at Vilnius University, Lithuania, in 2004, and the other at Kenya's Egeron University in 2007.

The new Cairo centre is "an important further step in promoting and developing activities on bioethics and the ethics of science and technology in the Arab region," said Henry Silverman, programme director for Middle East Research Ethics Training Initiative, based at the University of Maryland in the United States.

Silverman also said that RDIC‐BEST would enhance the efforts of UNESCO's existing Global Ethics Observatory (GEObs) in coordinating and sharing the relevant data on ethics from the Arab world.

GEObs collates and stores ethics information from all over the world and makes it publicly accessible through UNESCO's website. Its data includes information on ethics experts and institutions, teaching programmes, laws and guidelines, codes of conduct and teaching materials.

Hany Sleem, one of the coordinators of the Egyptian Network of Research Ethics Committees said: "I think it is a great idea to document ethics-related activities in the Arab region."