Norwegian parliamentarians visit HSCI to learn and teach

As an international leader in stem cell research, HSCI is a magnet for legislators from abroad who are wrestling with many of the same multi-faceted issues surrounding stem cell research that Harvard has dealt with, and are eager to learn from the University’s experiences.

Faced with the upcoming revision of Norway’s law regarding the application of biotechnology in medicine, a group of 10 members of Norway’s parliament came to Harvard in the fall to spend a day with HSCI scientists, university administrators, and those involved in shaping state and federal stem cell legislation. The visit followed a day in Washington, D.C., during which the Norwegian lawmakers met with Senate staffers and the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

In a daylong series of meetings in Cambridge, the Norwegian delegation heard presentations on a wide range of topics. These included university and government research policy, the National Academy of Sciences’ stem cell research guidelines (see below), the public debate over the ethics of stem cell research, HSCI’s research and programs, and how Harvard has worked with state and federal legislators to provide input on stem cell policy and legislation.

According to HSCI Executive Director Brock C. Reeve, the Norwegians were not the first such group to come to Harvard to meet with members of HSCI. Previously, members of Britain’s Parliament paid a similar visit, seeking, says Reeve, to “be better informed about the science and policy issues related to stem cell research.”

International delegations are not the only ones to benefit from visits to Harvard. Speaking to the Norwegian delegates, Kevin Casey of Harvard’s Office of Government, Community and Public Affairs, noted, “It’s critical for Harvard to have a full understanding of international developments scientifically, legislatively, and in the public realm in order to inform our public positions and interactions with Congress and state legislatures.”