September 3, 1997
Surfers Ride New Wave of Information at Website for Penn's Center for Bioethics
Internet Bioethics Project honored for bringing
bioethics conversation to the masses
The Center for Bioethics at the University of
Pennsylvania Medical Center provides Internet surfers with
immediate, online access to the writings of world-renowned
bioethicists and an opportunity to interact with them in
thought-provoking debates about current controversial topics
such as cloning and physician-assisted suicide.
Known as the Internet Bioethics Project
(http:/www.uphs.upenn.edu/~ bioethics), the award-winning
site has served more than a million people throughout the
world since its inception in 1995. It is considered by
experts to be the nation's most utilized and cited bioethics
source. The website contains numerous pages covering a
topics of interest to the bioethics "expert" and "beginner"
Topics change as more current ones come to the forefront.
For example, current topics include: "Ethics and Genetics: A
Global Conversation;" "Physician Assisted Suicide: The
Decision is In;" and "Cloning Law and Policy." Browsers also
have access to biographies and Internet addresses of the
Center's faculty, a virtual library, "salon bioethique"--
the Penn Bioethics Book Corner, and a section dedicated to
those who feel they may be lacking in bioethics savvy:
"Bioethics for Beginners."
According to Glenn McGee, PhD, assistant professor of
bioethics and director of the Internet Bioethics Project,
Penn's website is a model -- for the bioethics world and
beyond. "The Project was designed to reach ordinary people
where they live; to provide a fast, user-friendly way of
reaching the masses and encouraging them to reach us. As it
grows in scope, the Project continues to exceed
expectations," states McGee. "In 1995, the site was visited
by approximately 100 people per month; in January of 1996 --
as enhancements were added -- it was visited by
approximately 60,000 people per month. This year, we've
received close to a million visits in an eight-month period
-- with a large number of those visits occurring in the week
of Dolly's debut," adds McGee.
Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, Trustee Professor of Bioethics in
Molecular and Cellular Engineering and director of Penn's
Center for Bioethics, credits McGee and his knowledgeable
website staff of students and other volunteers for the
success of the Project. "We recognized a need to bring
bioethics out 'into the streets,' so to speak, and that
mission has become a passion with McGee," explained Caplan.
"We now have tangible proof that dedication pays off. By the
growth in the number of visitors the site has each year and
by the enthusiastic response our special offerings, such as
'Fireside Chat'-- an on-line bioethics course -- receive, we
know the Project is on the right track."
The Internet Bioethics Project has been recognized by
numerous prestigious international organizations -- in both
the computer world and elsewhere. Among the most prominent
awards received by the Project are: inclusion in the
Pointcom Top 5 Percent, selection as a
NetGuide Gold Star Site, the LookSmart
award, and recognition as a USA TODAY Site of the
Day. The HMS Beagle -- a webzine for
biological and medical researchers -- selected the Internet
Bioethics Project as one of Yahoo's "incredibly useful"
sites. It is also a "Times Pick" -- from the
Los Angeles Times service describing what's
worthwhile on the Internet. Project Interactive -- a service
to help users see where they can interact on the web --
selected the site an "official InterActive site" --
recognizing the unique discussion posting system the Project
uses to enable visitors to interact with the Center.
Two additional honors were bestowed upon the Internet Bioethics Project by the Microsoft Company. Caplan and McGee have written the "Bioethics" description for Encarta '97 and Encarta '98 -- Microsoft's CD-ROM encyclopedia. In addition, Microsoft will be putting a screen-shot of the site's "Ethics and Genetics" page on Encarta '98's packaging -- which will reach millions of computer owners. Plans are also under way to link the Center's website with MSNBC -- the Microsoft/ NBC site -- providing increased awareness of bioethics to all who "surf the Net."