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Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Reproduction

The purpose of CISoR

The ultimate aim is that the centre will help bring organisations to Kent that may want to engage in other activities related to or even beyond the remit of the centre. We continue to work with KIE to maximise opportunities in this regard. Central to the mission of CISoR is the premise that a unified centre under a single banner will be greater than the sum of its parts. The key added value of CISoR is thus that it will both nurture and encourage existing activity (promoting the activities in audiences that they would not ordinarily reach) while providing the environment for exciting new ideas with an emphasis on the cross-disciplinary endeavour.

Reproduction can be defined as the process of an organism or species perpetuating its genetics to future generations. The study of reproduction spans numerous academic disciplines e.g. medicine (clinical and veterinary), scientific research (genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, endocrinology, physiology), imaging, agriculture, conservation, public policy, ethics, law, sociology, anthropology, history, cultural studies, technology development, literature, art and psychology. The purpose of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Reproduction (CISoR) is to take full advantage of the multidisciplinary nature of this field, providing a hub for research, education, enterprise, knowledge exchange and impact at the University of Kent. CISoR activities thus provide an outward facing, unified “brand” for the University, focussed under the banner of healthy reproduction. There are three priority areas of study:

Assisting human reproduction

E.g new technologies for IVF, genetics and imaging; the legal framework surrounding assisted reproduction; how we formulate policy to deal with new technologies; opinions and changing attitudes towards IVF; public debate surrounding IVF; how the study of IVF informs us about early human development and disease; how we identify individuals involved in making decisions about reproductive science; what sort of decisions should be made and why; the moral authority of decision makers and the legitimacy of ethics committees; cross-border reproductive travel; ethico-legal framework surrounding reproduction in developing countries.

Variation in human reproduction

E.g new technologies for IVF, genetics and imaging; the legal framework surrounding assisted reproduction; how we formulate policy to deal with new technologies; opinions and changing attitudes towards IVF; public debate surrounding IVF; how the study of IVF informs us about early human development and disease; how we identify individuals involved in making decisions about reproductive science; what sort of decisions should be made and why; the moral authority of decision makers and the legitimacy of ethics committees; cross-border reproductive travel; ethico-legal framework surrounding reproduction in developing countries.

Non-human reproduction

E.g. the biological mechanisms and control of reproductive processes (e.g. gametogenesis), and when they go wrong, using model species; understanding the genetic basis of reproductive (and production) traits in domestic farm animals; animal IVF as a means of improving food production and conservation; reproductive isolation in natural populations, reproductive strategies of non-human primates; sexual conflict and coercion in wild populations.

CISoR research

CISoR will both nurture and encourage existing activity and provide the environment for exciting new ideas

Under these broad headings, CISoR is focussed on the following areas of academia

Multi-Disciplinary Research Excellence

All CISoR members will continue with their already high impact research, however future relevant activities will be badged and promoted under the CISoR umbrella to ensure increased profile. A core purpose of the centre is to encourage the production of successful funding applications and research outputs by providing greater opportunities for stakeholders to network, and through the promotion of activities. We are especially interested in those that can genuinely be described as inter-disciplinary.

Impact, Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise

Products/Processes/Equipment:  Activities have already led to several products and processes including genetic diagnosis and animal DNA probes; a key aim, going forward, will be to increase this portfolio.

Job/Wealth Creation: CISoR is rapidly becoming a hub for industrial interaction and collaboration; the applicants currently have 20+ industrial collaborators including the IVF and food production industries. CISoR aims to inspire and facilitate further collaborative projects and introduce new collaborators leading to successful income generationGrants and industrial sponsorship will create employment within the University while other income may create new employment opportunities in companies.

Public Communication, Engagement, Debate and Policy

Communication/Public Engagement/Schools: CISoR has a specific aim to increase public engagement. It will continue to expand on an already extensive set of activities locally, nationally internationally and web-based.

Law and Policy:  Many research activities already impact upon policy (e.g. HFEA) and CISoR will increase this area significantly, building on embryonic links already established e.g. between Biosciences, SSPSSR and Kent Law School.  Members have fed into parliamentary consultations.

Public Health/Societal Issues: Current work (e.g. genetic diagnosis, environmentally friendly agri-food production, abortifacients, teenage pregnancy, regulation of condoms) is targeted towards public health, and has a great impact on society. A key aim of CISoR is to promote and publicise this work more widely e.g. through the website, social media and newsletters.

International Development: CISoR’s mission is to generate and build upon international links and alumni relations (Middle East, South Asia, West Africa…) where reproductive technologies and their ethico-legal frameworks are rapidly emerging.

Ethical Considerations: CISoR focuses on a number of moral issues surrounding reproduction. Having identified decision makers in reproductive science (e.g. ethics committees, regulatory bodies) we ask what sort of decision they can make and why, their moral authority and the implications that moral barriers have for what might happen to scientific development. In a practical sense, we chair and serve on external ethics committees e.g. Professor Sheldon chairs BPA’s REC and Professor Ellie Lee is a member of it.  Professor Griffin sits on the Chaucer REC.

Education, Training and Skills

CISoR will aim to extend the current portfolio of MSc courses and introduce new cross-disciplinary modules. Current MSc courses include MSc in Reproductive Medicine: Science and Ethics; MSc in science communication; MSc in Medical law and ethics, MSc Evolution and Human Behaviour, Each of these have a multidisciplinary aspect and one purpose of CISoR will be to increase this inter-disciplinary element. Some modules currently delivered on certain MScs lend themselves well to be launched as short courses. Currently, several PhD students in biosciences perform the practical work for their PhD in other research institutions (e.g. in the US) and CISoR will explore possibilities of expanding this and introducing similar schemes into other Schools. We aim to provide further distance learning post-graduate opportunities (e.g. by launching distance learning versions of the MSc courses) and thereby build an interdisciplinary post-graduate research community.