This week, we’re getting to know Kaya Akyüz, one of our ELSI Services Officers. ELSI stands for Ethical, Legal and Societal Issues.
Hi, Kaya! What does a typical day look like for you? What kinds of issues do you deal with in your job?
The issues that I deal with typically relate to an intersection of experiences and expectations of different societal groups, from biobank personnel to biobank participants, life scientists to patient organizations. How can consent be truly informed? How are risks communicated and mitigated in biobanking? Often, there are no straightforward answers to such questions and ‘standards’ of today may very well change even in the short term. What I am doing relates to both making sense of those ‘standards’ (e.g. binding legal and ethical instruments or GDPR in the ELSI Knowledge Base) and situating them in the current practices (e.g. by following discussions on dynamic consent or genomic data and anonymity in scientific literature and in society).
Where has BBMRI-ERIC taken you?
As a result of the COVID-19 situation, I haven’t had the opportunity to visit any new places while working at BBMRI-ERIC. In an ideal world without COVID-19, I could have most probably answered this question with Cyprus, where we had initially planned a number of activities for the CY-Biobank.
What is the most interesting aspect of your job?
ELSI relates directly to the lives of each and every one of us in different ways, even though our focus may be localized on a certain biobank, a country, or academic field. This is especially true due to an increased datafication of our bodies, social lives, and, broadly speaking, of the world (for instance, see Goisauf, Akyüz & Martin 2020). Critical thinking about current developments in life sciences research and research infrastructures makes ELSI work especially interesting for me.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
ELSI stands for ethical, legal and societal issues. I feel the most challenging aspect is the necessity to be able to relate to all three components in what I am doing while my strength lies in the societal component of ELSI.
What do you love the most about working at BBMRI-ERIC?
What I love the most about working at BBMRI-ERIC is related to the most challenging aspect of my work. As a community of ELSI scholars networked through BBMRI-ERIC, we have the feeling that we will always have the right person with the necessary expertise within reach in case we need to collaborate, ask questions or even plan further research. In this regard, I very much enjoy working with a great team of legal scholars, social scientists, bioethicists and philosophers.
What kind of work did you do before joining?
Before joining BBMRI-ERIC, I had been a university assistant and lecturer at the Department of Science and Technology Studies, University of Vienna, where I have been getting my PhD. Before that, I had received my undergraduate and graduate training in molecular biology and genetics, having worked at the bench side at different research institutes in Austria, Germany and Turkey.
How has coronavirus changed your work?
The start of my position was unfortunately close to the start of the pandemic. It certainly has affected how I would have worked otherwise by limiting the planned activities and travel abroad.
We’re glad you joined the team. Thanks, Kaya!
Learn more about working for BBMRI-ERIC here. And look for the next interview soon!