Rana completed her PhD in the Department of Philosophy at UBC and is a Lecturer at the Centre for Applied Ethics. She received her B.Sc. in Biological Sciences with a specialization in molecular biology from the University of Alberta and a minor in Philosophy. She went on to complete her M.A. in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Saskatchewan where she was a research fellow with the College of Biotechnology and worked on a number of projects with the Genome Prairie team.
My main research interests occur at the intersection of science, technology and ethics. Although I am always engaged by traditional philosophical ethics, I also think a more pragmatic approach is sometimes required when trying to grapple with real world ethical dilemmas. Ethical issues arising from science and technology for instance, are often understood in terms of their consequences and in particular, their risks and benefits. Debates, regulations and policies are usually focused on discussions of the risks involved yet substantive normative discussion is often dismissed or ignored.
My current research builds on my dissertation and investigates the normative nature of risk though philosophical analysis. This allows me to explore some of the emerging ethical challenges arising from new scientific and technological breakthroughs. One of the current ethical controversies in both Bioethics and Neuroethics, for instance, addresses the issues surrounding the use of cognitive enhancers, which serves as an ideal case study for my research. Cognitive enhancers involve potential threats to what people value including physical and mental well-being, career and life aspirations, as well as the one’s sense of right and wrong. What is not yet clear in this broader ethical discussion is to what degree people will accept the use of such enhancements and how they will understand the inherent risks they entail. This normative theory of risk I have argued for can also be applied to current policy challenges in developing coherent regulations for new technologies that must be communicated effectively to the public.
As one of the original members of the NERD team I have been involved in the design and implementation of the NERD surveys which explore the ethical issues in genomics, tests the resilience of our norms and provides an empirical platform for doing ethics in a non-traditional manner. This experience informs some of my current research and aligns with my overall interest of contextualizing ethics in terms of how people actually behave and think rather than how we might theorize they behave and think.